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Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt

  • FILE - This Thursday, July 5, 2018 file photo provided by Nabaa Media, a Syrian opposition media outlet, shows smoke rising over buildings that were hit by Syrian government forces bombardment, in Daraa province, southern Syria. Syrian activists and state media said Thursday, July 12, 2018 that the rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces. (Nabaa Media via AP, File)

  • People in their vehicles who fled from Daraa gather near the Syria-Jordan border last month. Syrian activists and state media said Thursday that the rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces. AP PHOTO

  • FILE - In this May 9, 2012 file photo, an injured Syrian army soldier, left, walks next to his comrade after a roadside bomb hit their military truck, in Daraa city, southern Syria. Syrian activists and state media said Thursday, July 12, 2018 that the rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman, File) Muzaffar Salman

  • FILE - In this May 2, 2012 file image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed, protesters carry Syrian revolutionary flags during a demonstration in Daraa, Syria. Syrian activists and state media said Thursday, July 12, 2018 that the rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces. (Shaam News Network via AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, March 23, 2011 file photo, anti-Syrian government protesters flash Victory signs as they protest in the southern city of Daraa, Syria. Syrian activists and state media said Thursday, July 12, 2018 that the rebels have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad with Arab Spring-inspired protests seven years ago, to government forces. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File) Hussein Malla


Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2018

BEIRUT — For the first time in more than seven years, the Syrian government raised its flag Thursday over Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011 and plunge the country into its calamitous civil war.

The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old Assad who has ruled with an iron fist over Syria for 18 years. His father Hafez Assad was president for three decades before him.

Officials accompanied by state media crews hoisted the two-star flag over the rubble of the city’s main square, allowing it to wave in sight of the shell of the Omari Mosque where protesters first gathered in demonstrations demanding reforms then Assad’s ouster in the spring of 2011.

The mosque has since been destroyed in the government’s brutal crackdown against the city, which ranged from alleged torturing of dissidents to shelling the city with tanks and planes.

With control over Daraa, government forces can now focus on clearing the last pockets of the opposition and, separately, the Islamic State group from the frontier at the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in a 1967 war.

The corner of southwest Syria is an important corridor for trade between Syria and Jordan, and onward to the oil-rich Gulf states. But most of the important fighting against the revolt has already been concluded in shattering battles farther to the north for the main cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, and territories in between.

Some 400,000 people have been killed in seven years of war.

Protests in Daraa in 2011 against the government’s mistreatment of teenage detainees ignited a national revolt against decades of authoritarian rule.