The Syrian city of Aleppo returned to government control Thursday after the last remaining opposition fighters and civilians evacuated, ending a four-year rebel hold over parts of the country. The announcement was made through an army statement broadcast on Syrian state TV shortly after the last four buses carrying fighters left through the Ramousseh crossing, reports AP. Western Aleppo erupted in celebratory gunfire seen on Syrian TV, which showed uniformed soldiers and civilians shouting slogans in support of President Bashar Assad. The Syrian government's recapture of Aleppo represents a momentous victory for Assad and a crushing defeat for Syria's opposition, which will likely struggle to forge a way forward.
The ancient city has been divided into rebel and government parts since 2012. "Thanks to the blood of our heroic martyrs, the heroic deeds and sacrifices of our armed forces and the allied forces, and the steadfastness of our people, the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces announces the return of security and stability to Aleppo," said the statement read by an army general. The rebel evacuations were set in motion last week after Syria's opposition agreed to surrender its last footholds in eastern Aleppo. Since then, some 35,000 fighters and civilians have been bused out, according to the United Nations. More than 4,000 additional fighters have been evacuated in private cars, vans, and pick-ups from eastern Aleppo since Wednesday. (One famous evacuee is just 7 years old.)