This much we know: To have been in the Syrian town of Douma, the final rebel military holdout in the suburbs of Damascus, on Saturday, April 7, 2018 must have sounded and felt very much like hell on earth. Since 2013, when a shifting cast of rebel militias wrested control of the area, the whole region of Eastern Ghouta had been under effective siege by the Syrian government. Food and medicines were expensive or impossible to come by. Already miserably poor, it was all the locals could do to stay alive. Last February, the Syrian army, backed by Russian airplanes and emboldened by joint military successes elsewhere, began a final, determined assault. The operation was branded “Damascus Steel,” and it met with surprising success. By March the Syrian army and its allied militias had carved Eastern Ghouta into three distinct enclaves, each under the control of a different militia. The first two quickly agreed to deals, under whose terms the fighters and their families could choose to be bussed out to northern Syria or take their chances by surrendering to the Syrian army. Jaish al-Islam, or the Army of Islam, which maintained a tight grip on Douma, held out. As… Read full this story
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