Published: Sat, April 07, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

UN Seeks Access to Douma in Eastern Ghouta, People 'on Their Knees'

UN Seeks Access to Douma in Eastern Ghouta, People 'on Their Knees'

The first Army of Islam fighters began evacuating Douma on Tuesday, headed to Jarablus, a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces.

Syrian state TV said eight buses carrying 448 people - fighters and their families - had left Douma so far on Monday, en route for the north.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, which relies on sources on the ground, said earlier on Tuesday that divisions continued within the rebel group.

A total of 2,963 militants and their families have evacuated Douma in three batches over the past few days under a deal concluded between the Islam Army and the Syrian government forces under Russia's mediation. "Later, fighters rejecting the deal would exit the area while the others stay inside the city with their light weapons", the sources said, adding that Russia's military police would then be deployed inside Douma to take control of the town.

Hamza Berakdar, spokesperson for Jaish al-Islam, said on Saturday that the armed opposition in Douma refused to leave in what he called a forced displacement.

It was not immediate possible to confirm the details of the deal and there was no comment from the Army of Islam.

However, Jaish al-Islam has yet to confirm the report and only said on Saturday that it had agreed to evacuate the wounded to Idlib in northwestern Syria.

The deal over Douma would mark the end of a weeks-long push by Assad's forces to consolidate their control over eastern Ghouta, just outside the capital.

It says a local council for Douma will be formed with the approval of the central government.

"The joint investigation mechanism that emerged from UN resolution 2235 proves that Syrian regime forces have used chemical weapons at least three times while it was still investigating other incidents before Russian Federation ended its mission using its veto in the UN Security Council" the report said.

The now deserted highway was pockmarked with bomb craters and wound its way through bleak, apocalyptic scenes of neighbourhoods destroyed by years of fighting in Syria's bloody civil war.

Russian Federation is a key backer of Assad. Around 1,300 fighters, activists, and civilians signed up for evacuation, according to the Observatory.

Syria's army has discovered a complex network of secret tunnels in eastern Ghouta, including subterranean hospitals and strategic corridors used by rebel fighters to move weaponry and ammunitions.

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