A rebel fighter from Eastern Ghouta, holds his weapon as he kisses a child after arriving in Qalaat al-Madiq, some 45 kilometres northwest of the central city of Hama, on March 30, 2018. (AFP photo)
DAMASCUS, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army on Saturday declared a major victory after wresting control over much of the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus.
In a statement, the army said after a series of "precisely-planned" military actions, the Syrian army has captured 31 towns and areas in Eastern Ghouta, still in fight with the rebels in Douma district, the last rebel stronghold north of Eastern Ghouta.
Hundreds of rebels have been killed and their command centers destroyed during the offensive which began late last month, according to the military statement.
It added that the victory in Eastern Ghouta secured the road between Damascus and other Syrian areas in the north and also to the eastern areas in Syria reaching the Iraqi border.
Retrieving those areas also end the suffering of the Damascus' people as a result of the mortar attacks launched by the rebels from Eastern Ghouta.
The statement also said the victory in that area deals a blow to the "terrorist projects" targeting Syria.
Meanwhile, the army pledged to continue its battles against terrorism in all of Syria.
The declaration comes after the last batch of rebels evacuated their last stronghold in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday.
The rebels evacuated the towns of Zamalka, Arbeen, Ayn Tarma and Jobar to rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Those towns have witnessed mass evacuations of rebel and their families over the past week.
The liberation of the four towns constituted a major step in declaring the Eastern Ghouta free of rebels, said state news agency SANA.
Earlier in the day, SANA said as many as 38,000 rebels and their families have evacuated central towns of Eastern Ghouta toward rebel-held areas in Idlib since the evacuation process started last Saturday.
The four towns are considered to be the most dangerous to the capital due to their proximity to eastern Damascus neighborhoods. The rebels in those areas have repeatedly attempted to infiltrate the capital from those areas and have launched countless mortar shells on the neighborhoods of Damascus.
After the four areas, only the district of Douma in the northern part of Eastern Ghouta remains under the Islam Army control amid ongoing negotiations mediated by the Russians for achieving similar agreement in Douma.
The pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said the agreement of Douma could be included in the next hours.
Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge.
Eastern Ghouta was controlled by four major rebel groups, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.