Deal reached to evacuate last rebel pocket in Eastern Ghouta



CAIRO, Amr Mostafa and Ramadan Al-Fatash (dpa)- Russia and a group of Syrian rebels reached a final deal on Sunday to evacuate the town of Douma, the last opposition pocket in Eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus, Syrian state media and a war monitor reported.
Under the deal, fighters of Jaish al-Islam, the rebel faction in control of Douma, will leave for the rebel-held town of Jarabulus in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, the official state news agency SANA said.



The agreement also gives government institutions access to Douma and commits Jaish al-Islam rebels to release all prisoners they are holding in return for their safe passage, the agency added.
Some 1,300 fighters and civilians were on Sunday getting ready to depart from Douma to northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based watchdog added that all critically ill people would be evacuated from Douma under the deal, the latest in a series of evacuation pacts from Eastern Ghouta.
The Russian military police will enter Douma "in the next hours" in order to reassure its residents about their safety and discourage them from leaving, the Observatory said.
The recapture of Douma will seal the Syrian government’s full control of Eastern Ghouta, the former opposition bastion on the outskirts of Damascus.
Last month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces started a massive campaign aimed at expelling rebels from the enclave, which has been under government siege since 2013.
Thousands of people, including rebel fighters, have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta under Russian-brokered deals in recent weeks. Russia is a key military ally of al-Assad.
The fighters and their families were transported to the province of Idlib, a rebel stronghold in north-western Syria.
On Saturday, the Syrian army declared victory over rebels in Eastern Ghouta and vowed to continue military operations against what it called "terrorists" in Douma.
The loss of Eastern Ghouta will deal the biggest blow to the Syrian opposition since December 2016, when al-Assad's forces regained complete control of the northern city of Aleppo from the rebels following a Russian-backed offensive.
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Sunday, April 1st 2018
Amr Mostafa and Ramadan Al-Fatash (dpa)
           


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