Syrian regime prepares ‘huge’ operation in last rebel bastion

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The Syrian regime’s army is preparing to launch a “huge” operation against the last opposition-held town in Eastern Ghouta unless the Jaish Al-Islam insurgent group agrees to hand over the area, a pro-regime newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Routed by the Russian-backed regime army, opposition fighters in other parts of Eastern Ghouta are leaving in convoys to insurgent-held areas in the northwest under withdrawal deals that are restoring President Bashar Assad’s control.

Douma’s fall would seal the opposition’s worst defeat since 2016, driving the fighters from their last big stronghold near the capital, and would also carry potent symbolism. The town was the main center of street protests in the Damascus suburbs against Assad’s rule that ignited the conflict seven years ago.

The Jaish Al-Islam group says it is determined to stay in Douma, where tens of thousands of civilians are surrounded by regime forces. The regime says it will crush those who do not agree to leave or to live under its rule.

“The forces deployed in Ghouta are preparing a huge military operation in Douma if the Jaish Al-Islam terrorists do not agree to hand over the city and depart,” Al-Watan newspaper said.

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