Syria’s state media and human rights activists said government troops and allied militias have captured a number of villages and towns in rebel-held eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus, in the largest advance since a wide-scale offensive began last month.


Syria’s Central Military Media said that government forces captured at least six villages and towns along the eastern periphery of the enclave.

Rebel groups launched a counteroffensive Sunday, sending fighters behind government lines in a series of attacks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the rebels regained control of at least one town, while fighting continues.

Advances by Syrian government forces into eastern Ghouta caused many people to flee and seek shelter in areas in the heart of the eastern Ghouta, according to the pro-Syrian opposition television station, Orient TV.

Reuters news agency is quoting a United Nation official saying that a humanitarian convoy carrying supplies from U.N. and other aid agencies will not enter the besieged Syrian enclave as planned on Sunday.

“The convoy to east Ghouta is not able to proceed today,” the official told Reuters, adding that the U.N. and its humanitarian partners “remain on standby to deliver desperately needed assistance as soon as conditions allow.”

Some 400,000 people need food, medical and other supplies, the U.N. says. Only one small convoy with supplies for only 7,200 people has been allowed into Ghouta so far this year.

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