RESIDENTS of villages and towns in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta are fleeing as government troops and allied militias attempt to recapture the area just to the east of the capital, Damascus.

A UN aid convoy planned for yesterday has not been able to enter the enclave.

The organisation said it had failed to obtain permission from Syrian officials to allow 40 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies to enter the key town of Douma.

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

Rebel groups launched a counter-offensive on Sunday, sending fighters behind government lines in a series of attacks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the rebels regained control of at least one town, while fighting continues.

Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, has been under a crippling siege and daily bombardment for months.

The fighting since 18 February has left more than 600 people dead, many of them children.