Syrian army command says it has regained most of eastern Ghouta

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.

A man walks with his bicycle at a damaged site in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

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. 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 two 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 center of street…

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