Syrian residents make their way through debris following a reported air strike in the rebel-controlled town of Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on December 3, 2017. / AFP / Amer ALMOHIBANY
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With Daesh (ISIS) close to military defeat, the Syrian regime now has a greater capacity to direct its attention to the enclaves in the west that remain under opposition-control.Earlier this year Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a cease-fire agreement to create four de-escalation zones in Syria, calling for the cessation of hostilities between Assad forces and opposition groups.These de-escalation zones allowed the Syrian government to focus its energy on ridding areas in the east of the presence of Daesh. Ghouta, which has seen an intensified bombing campaign by the Syrian government, is an immediate priority for Assad to retake.Despite being one of the de-escalation zones, three weeks of airstrikes has left 193 civilians dead, including 44 children, according to the London based activist group the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. Retaking the de-escalation zones in the northwest and southwest of Syria will also be on Assad's hierarchy of priorities, but any future strategy will need to take into account the different opposition groups on the ground and the involvement of other regional and international actors.Analysts agree that is too early to say what the inevitable conflict between the Syrian government and HTS will look like.What is to be clear, however, is that the illusion of the de-escalation zone is over.
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