The Syrian flag of President Bashar al-Assad once again flew over the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, which had been in rebel hands for more than half a decade.
Russia, which backs the regime, said Syrian government forces were now in full control of the onetime opposition enclave and that Russian troops were patrolling the area.
The reported fall of Douma, the last town under opposition control in the Damascus suburb, marked the end of the rebellion against Assad there and one of the biggest defeats to date.
"Today a significant event in the history of Syria took place. The raising of a regime flag over a building in the town of Douma signified control over this town and consequently over Eastern Ghouta as a whole," Major General Yury Yevtushenko, head of the Russian military’s centre for reconciliation in Syria.
Russian television showed footage of the Syrian government’s red, white and black flag with two green stars hanging over the town’s central mosque, while cheering crowds waved flags in among shell-damaged buildings.
But a dispute erupted, shots were fired and the flag was quickly taken down, residents said.
"From today, units of the Russian armed forces’ military police are working in the town of Douma. They are a guarantee of the observance of law and order in the town," the defence ministry said in a statement.
The Russian military said the situation in Douma was “normalising” and a total of 166,644 people had been evacuated from the city through a humanitarian corridor.
The Russian’s presence in Douma raises questions as to whether the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose inspectors are expected to carry out tests in the next few days, will be able to work without interference.
Russian forces have already been to the site of the gas attack, and to the hospital patients were treated, but said they found no evidence such a strike too place.
The Syrian regime, backed by Russian air strikes and troops on the ground, fought a merciless months-long campaign in Eastern Ghouta which left more than 1,700 dead.
Within weeks they managed to cut the enclave, which had been home to almost 400,000 people, into three.
Rebels in the other two pockets quickly agreed to evacuation deals, under pressure from civilians would could no longer withstand the fierce aerial assault.
Those in Douma held out, with Islamist elements refusing to leave. Saturday’s chemical attack brought them back to the negotiating table and a deal was agreed the next day.
A senior member of Jaish al-Islam admitted on Thursday that his faction only agreed to abandon its battered enclave outside Damascus because of the chemical attack.
"Of course, the chemical attack is what pushed us to agree," said Yasser Dalwan.
Some 8,000 rebels and their family members are being sent by bus to areas in northern Syria close to the Turkish border and under the control of Ankara-backed rebels.
Meanwhile Russia claimed some 60,000 who had fled Eastern Ghouta before the government’s blockade in 2013 had returned.
The fall of Eastern Ghouta marks a major loss for the opposition, which controls only two other main strongholds in the north in Idlib and Deraa, in the south.
Residents in both areas fear the government will soon turn its attention to them.
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