Rebel group Jeish al-Islam begin withrawal from Syria’s Ghouta

Rebels began evacuating from the last opposition holdout of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta on Monday, state media said, a day after regime ally Russia announced a deal for the pocket.

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Syrian state media say the largest rebel group in Damascus’ eastern Ghouta, the Army of Islam, has begun to evacuate from the area’s last holdout town.

“A group of buses carrying a number of Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their families leave Douma in preparation of them being transported to Jarabulus,” a rebel-held town in northern Syria, state news agency SANA said, referring to the rebels.

State television said four buses had left Douma, the main town in Eastern Ghouta and the only opposition holdout after a six-week Russia-backed regime offensive.

Russia on Sunday reported a deal had been reached for Jaish al-Islam fighters to leave Douma, but the rebel group has not yet confirmed the agreement.

Milestone

The retaking of Eastern Ghouta would mark a major milestone in President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to regain control of territory seized by rebel factions during Syria’s seven-year civil war.

Assad’s forces have retaken 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta since launching a blistering air and ground assault on the besieged enclave on February 18, killing 1,600 civilians and displacing tens of thousands more.

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

(AFP)