Syrian Regime Takes Control of Country’s Largest Province

By Raja Abdulrahim|The Wall Street Journal |

Syrian security forces raise the government flag Wednesday in the main square of the town of Rastan in the central Homs province. Photo: louai beshara/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Syrian government took control of the country’s largest province, state media said Wednesday, as the Assad regime moves ahead with a Russia and Iran-backed campaign to capture remaining territory from rebels after more than seven years of conflict.

Rebel fighters and thousands of civilians are leaving the last opposition-held enclave in central Homs province this week under evacuation deals, after years of government siege and a recent military assault that forced their surrender.

The Homs province and its eponymous capital played an important role in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad as its neighborhoods and towns were some of the first in the country to break free of government control. The Assad regime is increasingly consolidating control over large parts of the country, further throwing into doubt the likelihood of a negotiated peace settlement.

The Assad government in early April completely captured Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, after nearly two months of a Russia-backed assault that included a suspected chemical-weapons attack. Since then, it has accelerated its push to seize small, isolated pockets under rebel control through the same strategy: siege and bombardment.

Limited U.S., French and British missile strikes on Syrian-government targets in response to the chemical attack haven’t slowed the regime’s drive to seize territory.

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