Syrian government forces capture villages of eastern Ghouta

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Hopes of aid entering besieged enclave dashed as Assad’s forces seize more territory

Forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, have captured six villages and towns bordering the besieged rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, as hopes that a long-planned humanitarian convoy might enter the area were dashed again.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitor, confirmed the latest advances, saying pro-regime government forces had seized about a quarter of the enclave on the outskirts of Damascus in recent days.

In an attempt to convey the desperate and unyielding misery, the United Nations Children’s Fund released a blank statement on 20 February. A footnote said the agency has no words to describe the “children’s suffering and our outrage”.

Related: Medical crisis in east Ghouta as hospitals ‘systematically targeted’

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