Eastern Ghouta falls to Syrian regime

Damascus: The Russian military announced on Thursday that the Syrian regime is now in full control of a town on the outskirts of Damascus that was held by opposition fighters and that was the site of suspected chemical attack over the weekend.
There was no official announcement by Damascus, however, and no indication that Syrian government forces had entered the town of Douma on Thursday.
The Russian defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the situation in the town of Douma, just east of the Syrian capital, is “normalising.”
“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.
Russian military police have also been deployed in the Syrian town of Douma as of Thursday, RIA news agency reported, citing Russia’s defence ministry.
If confirmed, the developments would mark the last stage of the Syrian regime’s takeover of the opposition-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, on Damascus’ outskirts. Douma and the region of eastern Ghouta was a significant opposition stronghold during Syria’s civil war, now in its eighth year.
Opposition fighters surrender arms
The remaining opposition fighters in Syria’s battered eastern Ghouta have surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader has left the enclave for the north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
“Jaish al Islam fighters handed over their heavy weapons to Russian military police in the town of Douma on Wednesday,” said the UK-based war monitor.
Their leader, Issam Buwaydani, left the enclave on the same day and arrived in opposition-controlled territory in northern Syria, the monitor said.
More than 13,500 Syrian opposition fighters and their families have left Douma this month under a so-called evacuation deal between the fighters and the Russian military, a key ally of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.
Flashpoint zone
The Russian Defence Ministry statement followed a chaotic day in Douma where gunfire broke out. The chaos ensued during the evacuation of the latest batch of civilians and opposition fighters after pro-government supporters attempted to raise government flags over buildings in Douma and chanted in support of regime leader Bashar al Assad before the evacuation of opposition fighters was completed.
The evacuation deal, which brings the last opposition-held area near the capital under government control, has been fraught with difficulties.
Amid earlier disagreements, a truce collapsed last week and the Syrian regime pressed ahead with its offensive.
A girl looks on following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018.
A girl looks on following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. (Reuters)
“Nice, new and ‘smart’”
Meanwhile, Syrians are bracing for a possible US attack in retaliation to an alleged chemical assault that killed dozens on Saturday in Douma.
With punitive US military action seemingly imminent, Russia scrambled to deflect blame from Assad as regime forces evacuated key defence buildings in Damascus.