BEIRUT: They Syrian army and its allies gained control of an
arterial road in a small rebel pocket in northeast Damascus early on Monday, bringing them close to
splitting the enclave in two, activists said.
The advance was along a road
that links the besieged districts of Barzeh, Qaboun and Tishrin near the Eastern Ghouta area of
towns and farms that spreads out from the Syrian capital, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said.
The Barzeh, Qaboun and Tishrin area had already been
isolated from the main rebel enclave in Eastern Ghouta, a region that has witnessed increasing
violence since the beginning of the year.
There was also fighting overnight
between the army and its allies and rebels in the southern city of Deraa and in areas near Aleppo in
the northwest and Hama in the west accompanied by heavy bombardment and airstrikes, the Observatory
Syria's civil war pits President Bashar Assad backed by Russian air
power, Iran and regional Shiite groups against mostly Sunni rebels that include extremists as well
as groups supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies.
war has dragged in regional and global powers, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and sparked
the worst refugee crisis since the second world war since it grew out of a mass uprising against
Assad that began six years ago on Wednesday.
Assad's allies Russia and Iran
and the rebels' backer Turkey sent delegations on Monday to Astana in Kazakhstan for a new round of
peace talks but insurgents on Saturday demanded it be postponed because fighting has continued
despite a ceasefire.
The army and its allies are trying to force rebels to
agree to truces similar to those that have led to the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters
to northern Syria from other besieged pockets.
It has for weeks
concentrated air strikes on Qaboun district, effectively ending a ceasefire that rebels in the area
agreed with the Syrian army which had been in place since the end of 2013. Barzeh also agreed a full
truce with the government in 2014.