Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
Sport | By Ashley Hunter

Ghouta as part of evacuation deal

Ghouta as part of evacuation deal

The return of tens of thousands to Eastern Ghouta would indicate a modicum of security coming to the area after the regime retook more than 90 percent of the rebel-held enclave.

Regime news agency SANA said: "Twelve buses carrying 629 Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their families exited Douma... in preparation of them being transported to Jarabulus", using the government's term for all rebel fighters.

Earlier, Russian reconciliation center for Syria said that a total of 153,140 people have been evacuated from the area of Eastern Ghouta since the introduction of humanitarian pauses on February 28.

The Saudi-backed group, which has deep roots in the region, has held firm in recent weeks as virtually all the other insurgents of eastern Ghouta have reached deals to relocate to the rebel-held north, leaving Douma as the only remaining rebel holdout.

The rebels were headed to Jarablus, a town in northern Syria where control of the territory is shared between Syrian rebels and Turkish forces.

Russian and Syrian military officers have told rebels in a besieged area northeast of Damascus they must accept state rule or leave, the spokesman for one rebel group said on Tuesday.

The group is estimated to command 10,000 fighters in the town, and has a formidable arsenal of tanks and other heavy weaponry.

The Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam released five prisoners on Wednesday as part of a deal over the eastern Ghouta town of Douma, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and state media said.

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Jaish al-Islam, which has been defending the eastern Ghouta town of Douma against a ferocious onslaught by Russian-backed Syrian government forces, has not confirmed the agreement with the government.

Ahmad Ramadan, a prominent opposition figure in exile, told the Saudi TV channel al-Arabiya that the Army of Islam was still engaged in talks with Russian Federation over the future of the town.

Local activists say over 100,000 civilians are trapped inside Douma, which has suffered catastrophic damage.

But journalists on the ground said both the regime and the opposition fighters had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma.

These include more than 1,000 people - fighters from another faction, Faylaq al-Rahman, and family members - who left Douma late Sunday, according to regime media.

Turkey, with the support of allied Syrian opposition forces, is carrying out its own military operations in northern Syria, against a US -allied Kurdish militia.

The Army of Islam did not agree to leave the town, said Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of Douma's current local council. He said Turkey was also participating in the talks.

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