The Syrian army has eliminated the once mighty Eastern Ghouta rebel pocket
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The rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, under Salafist control since April 2013, is no more. The area just to the east of the Damascus capital and incorporating some of its suburbs was the second strongest concentration of rebels in Syria. They numbered some 15,000. Only in the main rebel-held area in Idlib were there more. All of them have now accepted to disarm, switch sides or be evacuated to Idlib, and the government side has taken control of the last area — the town of Douma — that they held. This, not Trump’s strikes, is what was the most significant outcome of the Eastern Ghouta offensive.
And it only took five weeks of serious fighting to accomplish.
In February the Turkish army began moving troops into Syria’s rebel-held Idlib and — first unsuccessfully and then successfully — setting up bases on the rebel-army dividing line. This made further advances by the Syrian army on that front impossible. So its best units were moved from Idlib and tasked with spearheading an offensive against Eastern Ghouta in Damascus instead.
By March 12, three weeks after the start of the offensive, the army had recovered 60 percent of the pocket area and split up the enemy into three separate cauldrons. After some more fighting the various rebel groups by the end of the month one by one accepted government’s terms, leaving only one of the cauldrons — Douma — as the lone holdout.
Days ago, after the fabricated chemical weapons attack and Trump’s missiles detour, those rebels have folded as well.
The are, which was before the war home to 500,000 people is now fully back in government hands, the rebels have been evacuated to Idlib, some civilians went with them, most others stayed behind. Thousands of rebels also opted to disarm and return to civilian life and 1,200 are reportedly to be spread out between various units of the Syrian government army and loyalist militias.
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