By Middle East Affairs
The Syrian army declared Saturday to have defeated all anti-regime forces in Eastern Ghouta, and that the rebel groups had left, AFP reported.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began an offensive in the rebel enclave nearly two months ago – Feb. 18 – which had been under rebel control since 2012. The offensive focused mostly on the city of Douma and left at least 1,700 civilians killed, according to British-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Douma is located just east of Damascus, which holds almost 400,000 people.
“All terrorists have left Douma, the last of their holdouts in Eastern Ghouta,” state news agency SANA quoted an army spokesman as saying.
“Areas of Eastern Ghouta in rural Damascus have been fully cleansed of terrorism,” another army spokesman also said in a statement on state television.
Backed by Russia and Iran, strikes on the area made it nearly impossible for humanitarian aid convoys to reach the enclave and treat or evacuate the sick and wounded.
Early Saturday, the United States, France and Britain carried out their first joint air strikes against Syria in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.
The air strikes were in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack April 7 in Douma. Experts believe a “cocktail” of chemical weapons killed 60 civilians. The international community has blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with Russia and Iran, who deny the claims.
The strikes are not expected to change the course of the al-Assad’s victory. A photo released Saturday morning by his office shows al-Assad walking into the office in a suit, with a briefcase, and the caption: “Morning of resilience.”