The Syrian army has retaken full control of the devastated city of Aleppo, it said Thursday, scoring its biggest victory against opposition forces since the civil war erupted in 2011.
The announcement came after a landmark evacuation deal that ended a ferocious month-long offensive waged on east Aleppo by government forces and allied militia.
The operation ended a battle that lasted nearly four and a half years, and transformed the city into a worldwide symbol of bloodshed and devastation.
Thousands of inhabitants in the western part of the city -- which had remained under the regime's control throughout the conflict -- took to the streets, chanting slogans and shouting their jubilation despite extreme cold.
Cars crawled along, their drivers sounding their horns, and in city squares, children had the colours of the Syrian flag painted on their cheeks.
"Our joy is immense. Life returned to Aleppo today," said lawyer Omar Halli, who predicted "victory over all of Syria".
An army statement said the general command "announces the return of security to Aleppo after its release from terrorism and terrorists, and the departure of those who stayed there".