In Pictures: Thousands of Syrians Stream out of Rebel-held Enclave of Eastern Ghouta as Army Approaches

Thousands of Syrians are fleeing the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta as the army presses its advance into the last major opposition stronghold near Damascus.

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Syrians from rebel-held Eastern Ghouta arrive at the regime-held checkpoint in Adra. Louai Beshara/AFP
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Soldiers stand guard as Syrians from rebel-held Eastern Ghouta arrive at the regime-held checkpoint in Adra. Louai Beshara/AFP

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said at least 7,000 people have walked out of the enclave toward positions of advancing government forces, which have split eastern Ghouta into three separate pockets.

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Buses wait to evacuate civilians on the government side of the Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus. Louai Beshara/AFP
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Children sit on luggage in front of a mural bearing the logo of the Syrian Red Crescent in Douma in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
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A boy looks through a bus window during evacuation from the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

The is the first time a large group of people have fled the enclave since Damascus launched an offensive to recapture it last month, said Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman. Earlier this week, scores of sick and wounded people were evacuated from eastern Ghouta.

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Families prepare to board Syrian Red Crescent buses evacuating humanitarian cases from Douma in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
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Families board Syrian Red Crescent buses evacuating humanitarian cases from Douma. Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
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Members of the Syrian Red Crescent carry an elderly man towards the government side of the Wafideen checkpoint. Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP
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Members of the Syrian Red Crescent help an injured man onto the government side of the Wafideen checkpoint. Hamza al-Ajweh/AFP

In an offensive that began nearly a month ago, Syrian government forces have splintered rebel territory in eastern Ghouta, which had been the largest insurgent bastion near the capital.

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Syrian government forces deploy in the captured town of Beit Sawa it the Eastern Ghouta region. AFP
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Syrian pro-government forces advance through the town of Mudyara in the center of the eastern Ghouta region. AFP
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Syrian pro-government forces driving through the town of Mudyara, formerly held by opposition groups, in the center of the eastern Ghouta region. AFP

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 25 aid trucks entered a pocket further north, controlled by rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, and was headed to the town of Douma. ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said the convoy, which entered through the al-Wafideen crossing, contained enough food aid for 26,100 people for one month, among other items.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that overnight, dozens of airstrikes and shellings hit eastern Ghouta's southern pocket.

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A cloud of dust and smoke billows in Hazeh, in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Amer Amolhibany/AFP
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A wounded Syrian toddler is carried at a makeshift clinic in Hazeh, in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta following reported shelling by Syrian government forces. Amer Amolhibany/AFP
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A wounded Syrian man waits to receive treatment at a makeshift hospital following government bombardment in Kafr Batna in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Ammar Suleiman/AFP

Moscow and Damascus say their forces only target armed militants and seek to stop mortar attacks by insurgents that killed dozens of people in the capital. They accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields, which the fighters deny.

In Pictures: Thousands of Syrians Stream out of Rebel-held Enclave of Eastern Ghouta as Army Approaches | World