Reports: Last Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Ghouta
05 April, 2018, 01:49
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, adding that evacuations should be voluntary.
24 Buses transported the rebels and their families from Douma through the government-controlled Wafideen crossing northeast of Damascus, a day after over 1,130 Islam Army militants and their families left toward the rebel-held city of Jarablus in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Evacuations should be voluntary but in some cases might not have been, he added.
Drone footage shows the destruction in the town of Douma, in Syria's Eastern Ghouta.
Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff told a conference on Wednesday that the rebel fighters were still leaving the town of Douma, but he expected the evacuation to wrap up in the coming days.
Over the past weeks, as Syrian forces reclaimed towns and villages in eastern Ghouta, they gave rebels and all men of fighting age the choice of accepting amnesty and serving in the Syrian military conscription, or leaving to go to the north of Syria.
After a brutal month-old offensive, Syria's government and its ally Russian Federation begin securing evacuation deals to clear out Eastern Ghouta.
Under the deal, Syrian state media said Jaish al-Islam would hand over heavy and medium-sized weapons and acknowledge the restoration of the Damascus government's control of Douma. "Those who want to leave should leave", Essam al-Buidani says in the video, although it was unclear when it was filmed.
Douma is a stronghold of the powerful Army of Islam rebel group.
"The armed forces' formations, aided by allied forces, wrapped up military operations in Damascus Countryside's Eastern Ghouta, with full control established all over its cities and towns", said the statement.
The evacuations are part of a Russian-brokered agreement between the Assad regime and armed opposition groups. They included fighters from the Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham rebel groups, their families and other residents.
At least 1,600 people have been killed following the launch of an aerial and ground offensive by Syrian forces and their ally, Russia, on February 18, to recapture what was once known as Damascus' breadbasket.
The announcement comes after tens of thousands of rebels and civilians are bussed out under a deal sponsored by Iran, Russia and Turkey.
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