HEADLINE Syrian army declares full control of Eastern Ghouta rebel enclave


Syrian army declares full control of Eastern Ghouta rebel enclave


02:09, April 16, 2018


A picture taken on April 8, 2018, shows smoke billowing as Syrian Army soldiers advance in agricultural land on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their fierce offensive to retake the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta (Photo: Xinhua)

The Syrian army on Saturday declared capturing the Douma district, the last rebel bastion in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, after the evacuation of rebels and their families, according to the state news agency SANA.

The capture of Douma comes as the rebels of the Islam Army have fully evacuated to the rebel-held city of Jarablus in northern Syria in batches.

With this progress, the Syrian army has fully controlled Eastern Ghouta, which was the last major threat to Damascus.

In its statement, the army said the bomb squad started inspecting squares and streets to remove roadside bombs left by the militants in that area, preparing for other army units to secure the area for the return of the families to their homes.

The army said many factories for manufacturing weapons and munitions were found in addition to a large number of tunnels and storages of food the rebels had kept from the civilians there.

"This major victory in Douma and the eradication of terrorism from the entire Eastern Ghouta is a natural result of the people's embracement of the Syrian army when they took to the streets, urging the army to liberate them from terrorism," the military statement said.

The army stressed its keenness on the lives of civilians as well as their security and protection.

The army said that the victory in Douma comes as the United States, Britain, and France have launched missile attacks on the Syrian military positions earlier on Saturday.

The attack came against the backdrop of an allegation of a chemical weapon attack by the Syrian forces in Douma on April 7 prior to the rebels' evacuation.

The Syrian government strongly denied the allegation, calling for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a fact-finding mission for investigations.

But the United States and its allies launched their offensive on Saturday without waiting for the results of the inspection.

Bashar al-Jaafari, the permanent representative of Syria in the UN, said Saturday that the fact-finding mission arrived in the capital on Saturday afternoon as the Syrian government stressed its determination to cooperate with the team.

A day earlier, the Russian military police started entering Douma and the Syrian police entered that area on Saturday.

The rebels who evacuated Douma were the ones rejecting to reconcile with the government, while others accepted to engage in a police force supervised by Russia inside that district.

This development comes as the entire Eastern Ghouta was free of rebels late last month with over 43,000 rebels and their families evacuating to rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib except Douma.

Capturing Eastern Ghouta largely contributes to the security of the capital, as the rebels in that sprawling countryside used to fire daily mortar shells on the capital and attempted to infiltrate the capital many times, the latest of which was last April when the army foiled the attack.

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