Largest Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Damascus Enclave

Largest Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Damascus EnclaveLargest Syrian Rebel Group Starts Leaving Damascus Enclave

The most powerful Syrian rebel faction on the fringes of Damascus began abandoning its stronghold in the once rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Monday, in the final chapter of the government’s offensive to fully retake the area after seven years of revolt.

The first rebels from the Jaish al-Islam left the town of Douma in the morning hours as part of an evacuation deal that will hand the town to the Syrian government, reported the state SANA news agency, AP reported.

The rebels were headed to Jarablus, a town in northern Syria where control of the territory is shared between Syrian rebels and Turkish forces.

The Syrian government dispatched more than 50 buses to Douma to take the rebels out, SANA reported. By midday, only a handful had left for the north in three buses.

The deal over Douma would mark the end of a weeks-long push by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to consolidate their control over Eastern Ghouta, just outside the capital.

Rebel groups like Jaish al-Islam have long laid a siege around the Damascus enclave, preventing people from leaving and humanitarian aid reaching the impoverished people trapped there.

The groups also launched almost daily mortar attacks against Damascus population in what was mainly went underreported from main western media and those attacks were usually reported by state-sponsored news outlets.

The Syrian government finally waged a massive attack to free the enclave people and put an end to the mortar attacks around late last year.  

Western media claim that some 1600 people have been killed in the attacks and airstrikes carried by Russian forces.

Russia is a key backer of Assad.

Over the past weeks, as Syrian forces reclaimed towns and villages in Eastern Ghouta, they gave rebels and all men of fighting age the choice of accepting amnesty and serving in the Syrian military conscription, or leaving to go to the north of Syria. Thousands chose the north, taking with them their families.

More than 40,000 Syrian rebels and their family members have relocated to rebel-held north Syria, according to the Russian military.

Turkey, with support from rebels, is running its own military operations against a US-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which controls territory along the frontier.

On Sunday, the Syrian government-linked Central Military Media outlet said that once the evacuations are completed, a local council for Douma will be formed with the approval of the central government.


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