Syr­ian army com­mand says it has re­gained most of east­ern Ghouta

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syr­ian army com­mand said on Satur­day it had re­gained most of the towns and vil­lages in east­ern Ghouta and was press­ing its mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the last rebel bas­tion of Douma.

In a tele­vised state­ment, the Syr­ian army spokesman said the weeks-long mil­i­tary cam­paign had now brought se­cu­rity to the Syr­ian cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus, and also se­cured its main links to other parts of the coun­try, stretch­ing north and all the way to the Iraqi bor­der to the east.

A last group of fight­ers and fam­i­lies had ear­lier left the main towns of Jo­bar, Za­malka, Ar­been and Ain Tarma af­ter the fall of other towns, leav­ing only the city of Douma still in rebel hands. Footage on state tele­vi­sion showed top army com­man­ders en­ter­ing by the same route the rebel con­voys had used to leave.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have now evac­u­ated once-bustling towns in the sub­urbs east of the cap­i­tal, which had nearly 2 mil­lion peo­ple be­fore the start of the con­flict and were ma­jor com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial hubs.

The army com­mand said mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions were con­tin­u­ing in the out­skirts of the city of Douma, con­trolled by the Jaish al-Is­lam rebel group, the last patch of east­ern Ghouta still held by in­sur­gents.

Douma’s fall would seal the rebels’ worst de­feat since 2016, driv­ing them from their last big strong­hold near the cap­i­tal, and would also carry po­tent sym­bol­ism. The town was the main cen­tre of street protests in the Da­m­as­cus sub­urbs against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s rule that ig­nited the con­flict seven years ago.

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