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A member of the Russian military police stood guard between portraits of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, right, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia outside a post on the outskirts of Damascus. CreditLouai Beshara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A member of the Russian military police stood guard between portraits of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, right, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia outside a post on the outskirts of Damascus. CreditLouai Beshara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Bashar al-Assad scored a major victory this month by retaking eastern Ghouta, the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus, putting his forces in by far their strongest position since the early months of the seven-year-old civil war.

The United States, Britain and France launched a volley of air strikes on Saturday against three Syrian targets in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons strike during the Ghouta assault.

But the limited Western intervention, far from any contested battlefront, has shown no sign of having any impact on the ground, where Assad’s forces have pressed on with his offensive.

The last rebels withdrew from eastern Ghouta hours after the Western bombing. Since then, the government has focused on regaining four less populous encircled enclaves.

Their capture would leave the opposition holding only its two main strongholds, located in the northwest and southwest along Syria’s international borders.

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