Russia Offers Rebels Safe Passage out of Eastern Ghouta

Russia Offers Rebels Safe Passage out of Eastern Ghouta
Russia Offers Rebels Safe Passage out of Eastern Ghouta

The Russian military has offered Syrian rebels safe passage out of Eastern Ghouta, setting out a proposal to let the opposition surrender its last major stronghold near Damascus to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian defense ministry said rebels could leave with their families and personal weapons through a secure corridor out of Eastern Ghouta, where Moscow-backed government forces have made rapid gains in a fierce assault, Reuters reported.

The Russian proposal did not specify where the rebels would go, but the terms echo previous deals under which insurgents have ceded ground to Assad and been given safe passage to other opposition-held territory near the Turkish border.

“The Russian Reconciliation Centre guarantees the immunity of all rebel fighters who take the decision to leave Eastern Ghouta with personal weapons and together with their families,” said the defense ministry statement.

Vehicles would “be provided, and the entire route will be guarded”, it added.

Damascus and Moscow have pressed on with a campaign to target terrorists holding up in Eastren Ghouta, who have used the neighborhood to launch daily mortar attacks against people in Damascus.

Assad said on Sunday the Syrian army would continue the push into Eastern Ghouta, which government forces have encircled since 2013. Many civilian residents have fled from the frontlines into the town of Douma.

For the rebels fighting to oust Assad, the loss of Eastern Ghouta would mark their worst defeat since the battle of Aleppo in late 2016.

Russia has organized daily, five-hour long “humanitarian ceasefires” with the stated aim of allowing civilians to leave and to permit aid deliveries. It says rebels prevent people from leaving the area.

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