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Syrian army achieves breakthrough in East Ghouta

Jihadi enclave split into three pockets

A Syrian army tank is seen in front of a wall with Arabic that reads "Aleppo is the capital of culture" in the east Aleppo neighborhood of Tariq al-Bab, Syria, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Tariq al-Bab was captured by Syrian government forces on Friday. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The fight for East Ghouta took a dramatic but inevitable turn earlier today when the Syrian army, continuing its advance, capturing the town of Mesraba inside the enclave, and splitting the enclave into three separate pockets.

The latest advances mean that the Syrian army now controls more than 70% of the territory of the former Jihadi enclave of East Ghouta.

Here is a map provided by the Al-Masdar news agency which shows the present situation in the enclave

Though East Ghouta is often spoken of as a suburb of Damascus, it is in fact a mixture of countryside (much of it farmland) and small towns.  Much of its territory is actually ideal country for tanks and mechanised infantry to operate in as this picture shows

Most of the territory the Syrian army has captured within the enclave has been countryside, a fact which explains its rapid advances.

The latest advance means that the Syrian army has in effect captured all the countryside around the Jihadi held towns – of which Douma is by far the most important – so that the Jihadi fighters in these towns are now surrounded and cut off from each other.

Hard fighting however lies ahead, as the Syrian army now has to advance in what must be expected to be heavily fortified and fanatically defended built up areas.  The fact that large numbers of civilians are trapped in these areas will also inevitably complicate and slow its advance.

It is in order to bring this fighting to end as soon as possible, and to bring the whole of East Ghouta under Syrian government control in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost, that the Russians are trying to negotiate the withdrawal of Jihadi forces from East Ghouta and their transfer to Jihadi controlled Idlib.

The Russians have had only very limited success achieving this so far, but the latest reports suggest that some Jihadi fighters have recently agreed to leave, and with the position of the Jihadis in East Ghouta rapidly becoming untenable, more of them may do so.

One way or the other, the recapture by the Syrian army of the whole of East Ghouta is now only a matter of time.

Once East Ghouta is recaptured, the position of the remaining Jihadi enclave in the more built up Damascus suburb of Jobar will become untenable, making possible its relatively swift recapture.

At that point and for the first time since the major Jihadi offensive of the summer and autumn of 2012, the whole of Damascus will be fully and securely under the Syrian government’s control.

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