The Latest: Syrian army says it has retaken eastern Ghouta - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

The Latest: Syrian army says it has retaken eastern Ghouta

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DAMASCUS, Syria -

(AP) - The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
  
10:25 p.m.
  
The Syrian army has declared the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus "fully liberated" after the last group of gunmen left the town of Douma.
  
An army statement read by chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub said Saturday that special units are clearing streets and squares of Douma from mines and explosives planted by rebels.
  
Douma is the largest town of the suburbs known as eastern Ghouta and its capture marks the biggest victory for President Bashar Assad's forces since the conflict began seven years ago.
  
The army said that troops discovered weapons factories, arms depots, tunnels and food storage places.
  
It added that the army is preparing eastern Ghouta for tens of thousands who were displaced over the past two months during a crushing government offensive to retake the area.
  
___
  
9:15 p.m.
  
Syrian state TV carried live images of hourslong street celebrations with people dancing and chanting in support of their government's "steadfastness" following unprecedented joint airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain on Syria.
  
The report showed people waving Syrian flags, alongside those of Iran and Russia- the main allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad during years of the country's conflict - in the face of what many called "limited" or even "failed" strikes designed to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.
  
Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the incoming missiles, according to the report, which urged citizens not to believe other media reports "intentionally or unintentionally" exaggerating the results of the attack.
  
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10:50 p.m.
  
Syrian state-run TV says Syrian police units are entering the town of Douma, site of a suspected chemical weapons attack and the last rebel town in the eastern Ghouta region.
  
Syrian TV showed police waving Syrian flags apparently on the edge of the town just east of Damascus, and said the "terrorist presence" in Douma will end "in a few hours."
  
The entry of government forces to Douma follows a Russian-mediated deal that secured the surrender and evacuation of the rebels and thousands of civilians from the town.
  
Douma and the sprawling eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, had been under rebel control since 2012 and was a thorn in the side of President Bashar Assad's government for years. The government's capture of Douma, the last town held by the rebels in eastern Ghouta, marks a major victory for Assad.
  
___
  
10:30 a.m.
  
Hundreds of Syrians demonstrated in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance.
  
The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians. The Syrian government has denied the accusations.
  
In Damascus, the president's seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.
  
State TV broadcast live from the square where a large crowd of civilians mixed with men in uniforms, including an actor, lawmakers and other figures.
  
"Good morning steadfastness," one broadcaster said.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
 

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