Syrian army declares Ghouta rebel enclave fully retaken

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Syria's army command on Saturday announced that the eastern Ghouta region was free of militants, following the departure of the last rebel fighters from the city of Douma towards the north of the country, state media reported, citing a statement by the Syrian army general command.

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 US, Britain and France struck Syrian military targets before dawn over a suspected gas attack last week, which Western powers blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies. The regime uses the term "terrorists" to refer to rebels. The government's capture of Douma, the last town held by the rebels in eastern Ghouta, marks a major victory for Assad.

"Following a number of concentrated and powerful military operations in the past week, units from our courageous 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.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights, a British-based war monitoring group, says the campaign killed more than 1,600 civilians. The UN chief Antonio Guterres had then estimated that the situation in Ghouta was equivalent to "hell on Earth".

"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.

This event provoked the indignation of the global community. The Syrian government has denied the accusations.

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"Punishing the instrument of the crime while keeping the criminal - a farce", wrote Mohammad Alloush, a key member of Jaish al-Islam.

Dozens of civilians in government-controlled central Damascus were also killed by rockets and mortar rounds fired from Eastern Ghouta by the rebel groups that held it.

The aerial blitz the regime and Russian Federation launched in mid-February has caused extensive destruction in the region's towns.

In the morning, 95 empty buses entered Douma to carry out civilians and rebels from "Jaish Al-Islam", the opposition faction present in the town.

In 2017 the United Nations condemned the "deliberate deprivation of civilians" as a tactic of war, after the publication of "shocking" photographs of skeletal children in eastern Ghouta.

Since the beginning of the Russian military intervention at the end of September 2015, the regime, then in a bad position, managed to chain the victories, taking again more than half of the territory of the country devastated by a war which made more than 350.000 deaths since March 2011.