Published: Sat, April 07, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Syria: Fighters begin leaving Ghouta's last rebel-held town

Syria: Fighters begin leaving Ghouta's last rebel-held town

But the dispute emerged as some of the rebels refused to leave Douma, the last rebel-held stronghold in Eastern Ghouta after 43,000 rebels and their families had been evacuated to the Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the news, saying that a deal brokered by regime ally Russian Federation would see fighters with the Jaish al-Islam faction leave Ghouta's main town of Douma for opposition-held territory in northern Syria.

"We would then say anywhere between 80,000 to 150,000 are in the Douma area still under control of the armed opposition groups, Jaish al-Islam the biggest", Egeland said.

The last Syrian rebel group in eastern Ghouta near Damascus began withdrawing on Monday under an agreement with the government, state media said, though a military source said a group of insurgents were still rejecting the deal.

There was no immediate comment from the Army of Islam.

The recapture of Eastern Ghouta would mark a major milestone in President Bashar al-Assad s efforts to regain control of territory seized by rebels during Syria s seven-year civil war.

Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, used to be occupied by several rebel groups, who posed the last threat to the capital by firing shells into Damascus' government-controlled neighborhoods.

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Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity. The security services responded by putting the town and other suburbs around Damascus under siege, bombing hospitals and residential areas, and blocking food and medical relief.

An opposition official told the Saudi TV channel al-Arabiya that the Army of Islam was still engaged in talks with Russian Federation over the future of Douma.

They included 80,000 people now in collective centres in government-controlled areas, where conditions were bad, while 50,000 fled to opposition-held Idlib - which he called "the biggest cluster of displacement camps in the world" with around 1.5 million people.

The militants headed to the rebel-held city of Jarablus in northern Syria near the Turkish border. He said Turkey was also participating in the talks.

Russian Federation is a key backer of Assad.

Some 1,300 fighters, activists, and civilians signed up to leave the town, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It was here that rebels transported weaponry and ammunition across eastern Ghouta.

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