Fighters start to quit last opposition pocket of Syria's Ghouta

Fighters start to quit last opposition pocket of Syria's Ghouta

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

Eastern Ghouta was taken over by rebel groups in mid-2013, resulting in the Syrian government besieging the area since then.

There was no immediate confirmation from the rebels, but pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan quoted "diplomatic sources" as saying the agreement would see fighters give up heavy weapons and leave Douma for northern Syria.

The complete evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters would effectively transfer complete control over the Eastern Ghouta region to Syrian government forces.

The Russian military, which is allied with Assad's forces, said 1,146 rebels and their relatives have left Douma for the northern province of Idlib over the past 24 hours. Maj.

"They will all have to agree to the settlement in the end", the source said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the rebels' leaving Douma.

State media say 41,000 people have also been evacuated to Idlib under deals between Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman.

The once bustling commercial hub on the outskirts of the capital was the main center of street protests in the Damascus suburbs against Assad's one party rule that ignited the conflict more than seven years ago.

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He said the buses leaving Douma on Monday were transporting wounded fighters as a first step in the evacuations.

A Hezbollah run-media unit said on Sunday an agreement had been reached after several days of negotiations to spare bloodshed in Douma. Its power largely derived from Saudi aid and its control of an extensive smuggling network in eastern Ghouta.

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

Assad, who has military support from Iran and Russian Federation, now controls the bulk of Syria, though it may be hard for him to recover much more territory without risking a collision with other foreign powers that have forces inside the country.

Rami Abdurrahman, the Observatory's director, said some factions within the Army of Islam oppose evacuating and effectively surrendering Douma to the government of President Bashar Assad. Russian Federation is a key backer of the Syrian government.

The second largest chunk of Syrian territory is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of militias spearheaded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG and supported by the US-led coalition against Islamic State.

The U.S. blamed the attack on Syrian government forces but fell short of entering the war as it had vowed to do in the event of chemical warfare.

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