Heavy shelling and rocket fire against the Eastern Ghouta region, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, killed at least 45 civilians yesterday. Today, however, Syrian ground troops backed by Hezbollah moved into the area, seizing a major airbase that had long been lost.
The capture of the Marj al-Sultan base better secures the area for government forces, and in particular moves the rebels further away from the Damascus airport. Hezbollah reported they and the Syrian military fought their way in amid Russian air cover.
Syrian forces have been hitting Eastern Ghouta for years, but have rarely followed it up with anything more than a token ground offensive. This is the first major gain around the capital city in months, suggesting that the Syrian government may ultimately hold the capital.
Though no faction wants to admit it, years of civil war have split Syria into several different regions under the control of different factions, with ISIS holding the lion’s share. Ultimately, expelling smaller rebel holdings from mostly government-held areas may be speeding this de facto split, expelling more rebels into rebel-dominated areas and shoring up government control its its own sphere of influence.