Syria rebels give up Ghouta in major win for regime

By AFP |April 12,2018 - 09:22 PM

Rebels in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader left the enclave, a monitor said Thursday, signalling the end of one of the bloodiest battles of Syria’s seven-year war.

The Syrian flag was raised above the central mosque in Douma, the site of an alleged chemical attack that sparked outrage and threats of Western military action.

US President Donald Trump was mulling his options and British Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency cabinet meeting Thursday, as the Syrian army braced for Western strikes, hiding assets and deserting key buildings.

Syrian regime forces had yet to take over Douma but the rebels it battled there since the launch of a blistering offensive in mid-February no longer appeared in a position to fight back.

Jaish al-Islam, which has controlled Eastern Ghouta’s main town for years, had balked at a Russian-brokered deal like those that saw other factions bussed to northern Syria.

But the Islamist group seemed to have caved in on Wednesday, when its fighters handed over their heavy weapons and their leader, Issam Buwaydani, boarded a convoy out of Ghouta with thousands of other fighters and their relatives.

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