Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Last Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Ghouta

Last Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Ghouta

Iyad Abdelaziz was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency on Sunday that there was no agreement reached to have the Jaish al-Islam rebel group leave Douma for north Syria and hand over the town to government forces.

The Russian General Staff says the rebel fighters are still leaving the town of Douma for the opposition-controlled north and the evacuation will wrap up in the coming days.

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The government lost control of Douma, the largest urban center in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, in the early phase of Syria's civil war, now in its eighth year.

This deal was reached after marathon negotiations as the Islam Army would be the last rebel group to leave Eastern Ghouta after 43,000 rebels and their families left other areas in Eastern Ghouta since last week. The town is one of the last around the capital to hold out against the government.

Out of the almost 400,000 people besieged in eastern Ghouta for years by Syrian government forces, 130,000 had fled in the last three weeks, Egeland said.

The fighters were expected to head to Jarablus, a town in northern Syria shared by rebels and Turkish forces.

Turkey, with support from rebels, is running its own military operations against a US -backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which controls territory along the frontier. According to Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko of the Russian Reconciliation Center, the armed militants were allowed to leave Douma after they provide minefield and tunnel maps and voluntarily clear buildings and transport routes of mines before exiting. Abu Isa Ahrar, the leader of the Ahrah al-Sham rebel group, also denied reports about withdrawing from the region. There was no comment from the Army of Islam.

The Syrian government launched several airstrikes Sunday on the rebel-held eastern Qalamoun area, northeast of Damascus, according to local activists. Evacuations should be voluntary but in some cases might not have been, he added.

Local activists have said that over 100,000 civilians were trapped inside Douma, which suffered devastating damage.

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.

Faylaq al-Rahman did not have a significant presence in the Douma.

The return of the civilians was ongoing as the Syrian Army recaptured all towns in Eastern Ghouta except for the last rebel stronghold of Douma district, the report said.

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