Russia: Syrian regime now controls rebel town hit in chemical attack

Syrian government flag flying in Douma, Russian military police have begun to patrol the area, Moscow says

A picture taken on April 8, 2018, shows Syrian Army soldiers gathering in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their offensive to retake the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
A picture taken on April 8, 2018, shows Syrian Army soldiers gathering in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their offensive to retake the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

 

Russia announced on Thursday that the Syrian government is in full control of a town on the outskirts of Damascus that was held by rebels and was the site of a suspected chemical attack over the weekend.

The Russian defense ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the situation in the town of Douma, just east of the Syrian capital in the Eastern Ghouta enclave, is “normalizing.”

The Defense Ministry added that the Syrian government flag was flying in the town and that Russian military police had begun to patrol there.

More than 13,500 Syrian rebel fighters and their families left Douma this month under a so-called evacuation deal between the rebels and the Russian military, a top ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

The Russian ministry says 1,500 people left the town in the past 24 hours.

This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)
This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

The Syrian government has not made an official announcement on the matter, but if confirmed, the developments would mark the last stage of the Syrian government’s takeover of the significant rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta.

Meanwhile, Syrians are bracing for a possible attack in retaliation to the alleged chemical attack on Douma.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday tweeted that Russia shouldn’t be allied with a “Gas Killing Animal,” in reference to Assad whose regime is accused of carrying out the attack on Douma, which activists and rescuers say killed at least 40 people.

The Syrian government and Russia have denied that the attack occurred.

Trump warned Russia that “nice and new” missiles would be heading to Syria and Moscow should “get ready.”

US President Donald Trump attends a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House on April 9, 2018. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
US President Donald Trump attends a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House on April 9, 2018. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

 

The Foreign Ministry in Damascus denounced Trump’s threat as “reckless” and a danger to international peace and security.

Senior Russian lawmaker, Alexei Kondratyev, a deputy head of the upper house’s defense committee, on Wednesday said that warships would be engaged in the Mediterranean Sea to protect Russian assets in Syria from a possible US strike. Moscow has previously warned that not only would missiles fired at Syria be shot down, but their launch sites would also be targeted.

Assad has been blamed for previous chemical attacks by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN-backed war crimes investigators, and in April 2017, the US launched a cruise missile strike against a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a sarin attack on Khan Shaikun the UN later pinned on the regime.

As reported by The Times of Israel

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