Syrian army declares victory as rebels vacate most of Ghouta

Ruben Holloway
April 5, 2018

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.

Later Sunday, a media outlet linked to the Syrian regime military reported that Jaish al Islam also agreed to leave to north Syria, effectively transferring control of Douma to Damascus. He said "humanitarian cases" would be allowed to evacuate on Monday.

The Syrian government is seeking to crush the last few rebel enclaves near Damascus after routing insurgents in eastern Ghouta, which was the last big opposition stronghold near the capital.

But journalists on the ground said both the regime and the opposition fighters had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma.

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In video footage published by Jaish al-Islam online on Sunday, the group's leader told a group of men in a mosque he would stay.

Syria's conflict has killed more than 350,000 people since 2011, and spiralled into a complex war involving world powers.

Jaish al-Islam is the last remaining rebel group in Eastern Ghouta but has repeatedly denied agreeing to leave the area.

Hamza Berakdar, spokesperson for Jaish al-Islam, said on Saturday that the armed opposition in Douma refused to leave in what he called a forced displacement.

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The observatory said more than 1,600 people were killed as artillery, shelling and airstrikes made way for a ground offensive in which Ghouta split into three separate pockets of rebel control.

Eight buses transporting the rebels left Douma and reached the crossing of Wafideen area northeast of Damascus, waiting for more rebels to leave so that the first convoy of Islam Army rebels can set off to Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

The others were Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, whose death was specifically labeled by the Pentagon as noncombat related; Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton, who was killed by an improved explosive device; and Army Spc. The US military has not said if the IED was in a building, a vehicle or buried in the road.

"The United States is working every day on the ground and with the worldwide community to help stabilize those areas liberated from ISIS and identify ways to move forward with reconstruction once there has been a peaceful political transition away from (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad", the statement said. Russian Federation is a key backer of Assad. The town is one of the last around the capital to hold out against the government. Prior to freezing the funds, Trump's declaration of a full withdrawal from Syria was at odds with with what the Pentagon also said on Thursday.

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"02 de abril de 2018, 00:20Damascus, Apr 2 (Prensa Latina) An estimated 1,000 militants of the Failaq al-Rahman radical movement, along with their families, reportedly left the Syrian town of Douma, the only site that was still under terrorists" control in Eastern Ghouta.

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