Reports of Douma evacuation deal 'not true': council member

Apr 03, 2018, 02:48
Reports of Douma evacuation deal 'not true': council member

The deal brokered by regime ally Russian Federation would see fighters with the Jaish al-Islam rebel faction leave Ghouta's main town of Douma for opposition-held territory in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A "small number" of fighters were sent as reinforcements to Douma earlier this year, Failaq spokesman Wael Alwan told Syria Direct on Monday, and became trapped when a major government offensive severed East Ghouta's Jaish al-Islam-controlled north from its Failaq a-Rahman-held central sector on March 11.

Journalists on the ground said both the regime and the rebels had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma.

Successive evacuation deals for other parts of Ghouta have seen more than 46,000 fighters and civilians bussed out in recent weeks, according to a tally of figures provided by SANA.

Later on the same day, the head of Jaish al-Islam's political office, Yaser Dilwan, said that negotiations were ongoing and seemed optimistic, but did not offer any details other than to say that different options were suggested.

A council member of Douma in Eastern Ghouta has said reports of a deal to surrender the opposition-controlled town to the Syrian government are not true.

A final deal has been reached for fighters and civilians to leave the last opposition-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Sunday, paving the way for Syria's regime to retake the onetime rebel enclave near Damascus.

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A Syrian military source was quoted as saying that some of the fighters were rejecting the deal.

Twenty four buses left Douma Sunday evening via a humanitarian corridor in Muhayam Wafedeen toward south western province of Idlib.

Before the last wave of violence began in eastern Ghouta last month, the United Nations had estimated that some 393,000 people were living in the area under a tight government siege.

A statement said the military would press on with "fighting in the area of Douma to rid it of terrorism", in reference to the rebels.

While Jaish al-Islam and Failaq a-Rahman previously fought together against pro-government forces, the two factions share a long history of violent infighting for control of East Ghouta. "Those who want to leave should leave", Essam Al Buidani says in the video, although it was unclear when it was filmed.

Jaish al-Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Before February 18, some 400,000 people in Eastern Ghouta had lived under regime siege for five years, facing severe food and medicine shortages.

Regime forces have already retaken more than 95% of Eastern Ghouta in a six-week air and ground blitz that has killed hundreds of civilians and forced tens of thousands from their homes.

More than 4,000 people left the devastated town of Harasta last week under a deal with the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group.

An old woman dressed head-to-toe in black stood by a pile of suitcases, with a child wearing a winter coat and colourful backpack by her side.

Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with a brutal repression of anti-regime protests.

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