Thousands more leave Syria's Ghouta in withdrawal deal

Posted March 28, 2018

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says buses carrying hundreds of fighters belonging to the rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, their family members and other civilians left eastern Ghouta late Saturday, bound for the rebel-held Idlib province in northern Syria.

Separately, he mentioned the forthcoming April 4 summit between Turkey, Iran and Russia in Istanbul, which Yuva said would "give a new dimension to the process of Syrian settlement against the backdrop of the development and strengthening of Russian-Turkish cooperation on Syria".

Jaish al-Islam, the powerful faction that holds Douma, had hoped talks with Moscow would result in their staying in the town, instead of being bussed out like other opposition fighters.

Tens of thousands of civilians and fighters left battered Eastern Ghouta, where some streets have been bombed to the ground, after all but one of its main rebel groups reached agreements with Russian Federation to withdraw, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Douma-based activist Laith al-Abdullah told Al Jazeera that Faylaq ar-Rahman are trying to evacuate their extended family members now trapped in Douma - despite ongoing negotiations. It put the total figure of civilians and rebels evacuated from the area since the Russia-sponsored "humanitarian pauses" were announced at 114,000 people.

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President Bashar Al-Assad has used such evacuation agreements to recover swathes of territory since the uprising against his rule began seven years ago this month.

The regime responded with a crippling half-decade siege on the suburb's 400,000 residents, sealing off access to food, medicine and other goods.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the operation, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

The deal, brokered by the Russians, also demanded for the release of the kidnapped people from the rebels' custody.

SANA added that work is ongoing for the release of more people.

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"The negotiations are to remain, not to leave", Army of Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV from inside Douma.

Eight were freed on Sunday and another 26 the following day, SANA said. "This sped up the regime's advance".

Al-Watan quoted Syrian legislator Mohammed Kheir Seiryoul, who is originally from Douma, as saying that the understanding could lead to an agreement to dissolve the Army of Islam.

Before they faltered, talks over Douma's fate had envisioned Jaish al-Islam laying down its heavy weapons in exchange for government-provided water and electricity returning to the town.

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