Syrian government forces have raised their flag over the last opposition bastion in eastern Ghouta, taking full control of the town of Douma, Russian news agencies reported today.
Eastern Ghouta had been the biggest opposition stronghold near Damascus, but many groups surrendered after a series of ferocious government assaults aided by Russia under a massive bombardment.
The Jaish Al-Islam group in Douma agreed on Sunday to withdraw, hours after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the town that has raised the prospect of US strikes. The Syrian government and Russia have called reports of the attack bogus.
“The raised state flag over a building in the town of Douma has heralded the control over this location and therefore over the whole of eastern Ghouta,” Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Syria, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Russian military police were deployed in Douma today in accordance with the opposition surrender deal, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. Some 40,000 people, including thousands of opposition members and their families, are leaving Douma for areas in northern Syria under the agreement.
Yesterday, a top official from Iran, Assad’s other main ally, toured eastern Ghouta and vowed to stand by Syria in the face of “any foreign aggression”.
“Syria’s enemies are angry because of its military advances against terrorist groups,” Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s top adviser, told Iranian state TV during his visit to eastern Ghouta’s bomb-shattered ruins.
US President Donald Trump said that American missiles “will be coming” to Syria as he and other Western countries weigh military action over the suspected chemical attack in Douma.
In his tweet yesterday, Trump referred to Assad as a “gas killing animal”.