Syrian army ousts rebels in Ghouta

BEIRUT – The Syrian army broke apart the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta on Sunday, cutting off two major towns from the rest of the area, state media said, after a fierce battle waged under cover of an unrelenting bombardment.

State television on Sunday broadcast from the eastern Ghouta town of Mudeira, which state television and a war monitor said the army had captured to link up with units on the other side of the enclave.

A military media unit run by the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government, said the army had also entirely surrounded the town of Douma.

Footage showed several massive plumes of smoke in the distance behind a war-ravaged townscape with big holes in walls and roofs, and yet more smoke wafting across the streets. The sound of blasts could be heard.

More than 1100 civilians have been killed in the onslaught on the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus since it began three weeks ago with a withering bombardment, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.