Syria rebels give up Ghouta in major win for regime

Nellie Chapman
April 13, 2018

The Russian defense ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the situation in the town of Douma, just east of the Syrian capital in the Eastern Ghouta enclave, is "normalizing".

"And as for our friends, the Kurds, they are busy having to defend themselves against Turkey of all people, who are our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies who are busy attacking the Kurds whilst cosying up to Russian Federation".

It also said the Syrian government flag was flying on Thursday in the town, which signalled that the regime was back in control of Ghouta although its forces have not yet entered Douma.

The U.S. stance on striking Syria is no clearer, even after President Trump tweeted that missiles "will be coming".

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to an attack against civilians last weekend that US officials are increasingly certain involved the use of banned chemical weapons. "Chemicals!'" a 25-year-old student named Mohammed al-Hanash told the New York Times.

"Of course, the chemical attack is what pushed us to agree" to a withdrawal from Douma, said Yasser Dalwan, a high-ranking member of Jaish al-Islam.

"There has been no decision to take military action at this point". Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told NBC News on Thursday the administration has "enough proof" of the chemical attack but was still considering its response.

Mattis said options would be discussed with Trump at a meeting of his National Security Council on Thursday afternoon.

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Russian Federation has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and has helped turn the tide of war in his favour since entering the conflict in September 2015.

Theresa May is reportedly adamant that the United Kingdom plays an equal part in any military action against Syria.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in the Netherlands, announced it was sending a fact-finding team to the site of the attack outside Damascus, and it was due to arrive Saturday.

The officials said they were "confident" in the intelligence, but "not 100 percent sure" about it, the report added.

"I'm not ready to speculate that that would happen", Mattis said.

Japan plans to avoid expressing direct support for actual US military action against Syria, in an attempt to avoid damaging negotiations with Russian Federation over a decades-long territorial row, government sources said Thursday.

More than 13,500 Syrian rebel fighters and their families left Douma this month. The government's capture of Douma, the last town held by the rebels in eastern Ghouta, marked a major victory for Assad.

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