Syrian govt forces seize Douma, last militant stronghold in E. Ghouta – Russian MoD
Syrian government troops have gained full control of the Douma enclave, the last militant stronghold in Eastern Ghouta, 10km from Damascus, the Russian Defense Ministry says.
The latest development marks a “symbolic event,” according to the head of the Syrian Reconciliation Center, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko. “The raised state flag over a building in the town of Douma… has heralded the control over this area and therefore over the whole Eastern Ghouta.”
On Thursday, Russian military police were deployed in Douma, which has been freed from Jaysh al-Islam militants. According to the Russian military, their task is to provide “law and order” in the battle-scarred area.
The liberated city is allegedly the site of a chemical attack which has been reported by rebel-linked activists, as well as the controversial White Helmets organization.
The incident, said to have occurred on Saturday, affected dozens of people, reports claim. The West swiftly pointed the finger at the Syrian government, which has denied the accusations. US President Donald Trump hastily called it a “humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever,” warning that a “big price” would be paid. The Russian military said that the assault might have been staged, adding that it dispatched units to the site and has found no traces of chemical weapons. Moscow said it has warned about false-flag attacks being prepared in recent months.
Over 160,000 people have managed to leave the besieged Eastern Ghouta in what is believed to be the largest exodus in the country’s seven-year war, according to the latest Russian MoD data.
Syrian militants and their families have also been evacuated from Douma via humanitarian corridors as part of a Russia-brokered deal which saw militant prisoners being released. The Russian Defense Ministry has been streaming live images from the Muhayam al-Wafideen checkpoint in Eastern Ghouta, where the mass withdrawal of militants from once-besieged Douma is currently underway. Over 13,000 militants and their family members are said to have been evacuated from Douma since April 1.
The first civilians started to flee the besieged area via humanitarian corridors in mid-March. Those who managed to escape told media harrowing stories about living in constant fear of being killed by militants for any perceived wrongdoings. The way out was often not safe as militants shelled civilian areas to prevent them from leaving the war-ravaged enclave. On several occasions, the terrorists killed people protesting against being held hostage in the Damascus suburbs.
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