Militants' pullout from Syria's Douma completed - Russia's top brass

Alicia Farmer
April 16, 2018

The General Command of the Syrian Army and Armed Forces has announced that Eastern Ghouta in the Damascus Countryside is now completely terrorism-free following two months of operations in the region.

The Syrian army announced Saturday that it has fully recovered the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta near Damascus after the evacuation of the last insurgents in the city of Duma, after a devastating offensive of almost two months.

The evacuations are part of a negotiated withdrawal reached last weekend for Douma, the final holdout in the rebels' former stronghold of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus. The community is home to some 18,000 people displaced by the offensive that drove rebels out of eastern Ghouta.

The announcement, which represents a key strategic victory for President Bashar al-Assad, came just hours after US-led strikes pounded Syrian government targets in response to a suspected chemical attack on the enclave's main town of Douma.

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.

Heavy fighting and devastating bombings have killed more than 1,700 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), an NGO that has an extensive network of sources in war-torn Syria. Damascus with key allies Russian Federation and Iran, have lambasted reports of the suspected gas attack as bogus.

The group Jaich al-Islam estimated Saturday that the raids carried out by the Westerners would be a "farce" as long as President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

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"Jaish Al-Islam" said it only agreed to pull out of Douma after a suspected chemical attack on April 7 that appeared to break their will.

"Punish the instrument of crime while the criminal is maintained.A joke", said on his Twitter account Mohammed Allouche, a senior official of the group that controlled Douma.

The General Command said that engineering units immediately began canvassing squares, streets, and corridors to clear mines and IEDs planted by terrorists in the city, in order to enable the rest of the units to secure liberated areas and prepare them for the return of civilians to their homes safely.

On Saturday, Syria's internal security forces entered Douma, after the last convoy of buses transporting members of Jaish al-Islam and their relatives left the town.

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.

Thousands of civilians who fled the offensive have already returned to areas previously retaken by the army and allied forces.

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".

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