AMMAN (Reuters) – The Syrian army command said on Saturday it has regained most of the towns and villages in eastern Ghouta and was pressing its military operations in the last rebel bastion of Douma.
In a televised statement, the Syrian army spokesman said the weeks-long military campaign had now brought security to the Syrian capital Damascus and also secured its main links to other parts of the country, stretching north and all the way to the Iraqi border to the east.
The army command said military operations were continuing in the outskirts of the city of Douma, controlled by the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, the last patch of eastern Ghouta still held by insurgents.
Douma is surrounded by Syrian government forces. Tens of thousands of civilians remain in the town. The rebels there deny they are negotiating an evacuation deal and say talks with the Russian military aim to find a solution that would allow them to stay in the city under Moscow’s protection.
The Russian-backed offensive in eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians and thousands of wounded, rescuers said. The authorities say about 150,000 people have now been displaced from eastern Ghouta.
Thousands of people — fighters, their families and other civilians — have been leaving for northwestern Syria from other parts of eastern Ghouta in convoys of buses that have been given safe passage to Idlib province.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Angus MacSwan