Last eastern Ghouta rebels poised to surrender: Syrian state media

Last eastern Ghouta rebels poised to surrender: Syrian state media

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.

State TV said 38 buses left the towns of Zamalka, Ein Tarma, Arbeen and Jobar taking more than 1,700 rebels and civilians to the northwestern rebel-held province of Idlib.

Jaish al-Islam has previously said it would not leave Douma and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported divisions within its ranks.

Indicating divisions in Jaish al-Islam, a Syrian military source told Reuters some of the fighters were rejecting the deal and the regime army would use force unless they accepted it.

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. Syrian government forces responded by putting the town and other suburbs around Damascus under siege, bombing hospitals and residential areas, and blocking the entry of food and medical relief.

The most recent Syrian air and ground offensive on eastern Ghouta, supported by Russia's military, has killed at least 1,600 people, according to the Observatory.

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Recapturing Douma would put eastern Ghouta fully back under control of President Bashar al-Assad's government for the first time since 2012. Syrian activists say the group has told them it is determined to remain in Douma.

Two members of the USA -led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State were killed and five others were wounded by an improvised explosive device in northern Syria late on Thursday. The Observatory said evacuations were underway under that deal with civilians - including of the sick or wounded, or family members of the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group - to head towards Idlib.

Syria's war, begun in 2011 with Assad's repression of anti-regime protests, has claimed more than 350,000 lives and displaced many millions, both inside its borders and to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Its power largely derived from Saudi aid and its control of an extensive smuggling network in eastern Ghouta. More than 120,000 people fled their homes under the five-week assault, seeking safety behind government lines, according to the Russian military.

Monday marks the second consecutive day of rebel evacuations from the town of Douma. Russian Federation is a key backer of the Syrian government.

It says a local council for Douma will be formed with the approval of the central 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.

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