Eight Years After Civil War Outbreak, Syrian Government Forces Raise Flag Over Dera’a
Syrian government forces hoist the national flag in the city of Dera'a. (Photo: Sanaa)

The Syrian government’s forces raised the country’s flag on Thursday over areas of Deraa city that have been in rebel hands for years, and was the birthplace of the revolt against his rule. State television said the army hoisted the flag near the post office on Thursday, the only government building in the portion of the city that had been held by rebels since the early days of the uprising that began there in 2011 with large protests.

The capture of Dera’a from rebel fighters is a major victory for President Bashar Al-Assad who is increasing his grip over various parts of the war-torn country. Government forces were backed by Russian air strikes which enabled them to recover large swathes of Deraa province in the last three weeks. The government forces advanced unopposed by Assad's Western and regional foes into the strategically vital region near Jordan and Israel.

With material help from Russia and Iran including providing forces, Assad now controls most of Syria’s major cities and the areas around them. Anti-Assad rebels still control a chunk of the northwest, and the northeast and a large chunk of the east are controlled by Kurdish-led groups.

The Aljazeera reports that there is still a pocket controlled by the ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) in Deraa. The government is expected to launch an operation to capture this area. Rebels in parts of Deraa province reached an agreement to surrender their territory last week. In Deraa city, rebels are still in talks with Russian officers to secure safe passage out, rebel officials said.

Under an agreement reached last week with militant groups, the Syrian government said "terrorist groups will hand over heavy and medium weapons," and that those who agree to the accord will be permitted to remain in the area. The agreement includes the areas of Daraa al-Balad, the Dam Road, the Camp, Sajna, al-Manshyia, Gharaz and the Silos.

The Syrian war has been one of the bloodiest in the Middle East with over 5,00,000  killed and 11 million displaced which is over half of Syria’s population.