Syrian army declares Ghouta rebel enclave fully retaken

Nellie Chapman
April 16, 2018

"Following a number of concentrated and powerful military operations in the past week, units from our fearless armed forces and its allies managed to cleanse Eastern Ghouta in all its neighborhoods and (surrounding) villages, from the armed terrorist organizations after driving out all terrorists from the city of Douma, the final base for terrorists in Eastern Ghouta", said a statement released by the military late on Saturday.

"Areas of Jap Ghouta in rural Damascus have been absolutely cleansed of terrorism", a military spokesman additionally stated in a press release delivered on state tv.

At the start of the year, Eastern Ghouta was a sprawling semi-rural area just east of Damascus, home to nearly 400,000 inhabitants, which had already endured several years under a government siege that slashed access to food, medicine and other goods.

The announcement comes after a massive assault launched by Syrian government and allied forces on February 18 to retake the enclave, which had been out of regime control since 2012.

The city was the last rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.

The attack prompted a joint military operation by the United States, Britain and France that targeted several facilities near Damascus and the city of Homs 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.

Assad had made the reconquest of Jap Ghouta a strategic goal.

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The group has slammed the Western strikes as insufficient, as Assad maintains his grip on the war-ravaged country.

The last convoy of buses transporting members of the Islamist group Jaish al-Islam and their relatives left Douma yesterday.

The government has consistently denied using chemical weapons, including in Douma, and invited the world's top chemical watchdog to investigate.

The two-month assault on Eastern Ghouta sparked an worldwide outcry, with the head of the United Nations describing the conditions endured by civilians there as "hell on Earth".

"Humanitarian operation in the Eastern Ghouta carries on despite missile strikes against Damascus carried out by the global coalition", Maj.

"Over the past few days, most of the "Jaish Al-Islam" fighters have left Douma in four successive waves", said the Britain-based monitor's head, Rami Abdel Rahman.

The Syrian military stated a clear up operation was below manner within the battered enclave.

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.

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