The Syrian army is preparing to launch a “huge” operation against the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta unless the Jaish al-Islam insurgent group agrees to hand over the area, a pro-Syrian government newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Routed by the Russian-backed Syrian army, rebels in other parts of eastern Ghouta are leaving in convoys to insurgent-held areas in the northwest under withdrawal deals that are restoring President Bashar al-Assad’s control.
But the Jaish al-Islam group says it will stay in Douma, where tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering in an enclave surrounded by government forces.
“The forces deployed in Ghouta are preparing a huge military operation in Douma if the Jaish al-Islam terrorists do not agree to hand over the city and depart,” al-Watan newspaper said.
A Syrian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the situation was in a critical phase. “These two days will be decisive,” the official told Reuters, without giving further details.
Jaish al-Islam said on Tuesday that Russia had yet to give its answer to proposals regarding Douma, and accused Damascus and Moscow of seeking to impose demographic changes on the area by forcing out its people.