Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

Fighters begin leaving last rebel pocket of E. Ghouta

Fighters begin leaving last rebel pocket of E. Ghouta

If confirmed, its surrender or departure for rebel-held areas in northwest Syria would herald an end to large-scale conflict in the enclave.

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.

The government assault since 18 February has killed more than 1,600 civilians, the Observatory says, and devastated entire neighbourhoods.

Jaish al-Islam has been in Russian-brokered negotiations with the Syrian government for several days now.

In a speech delivered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson barely two months ago, the administration publicly declared its intention to stay in Syria more or less indefinitely, not merely to ensure the final destruction of ISIS, but to achieve the longstanding goal of USA imperialist policy in the country, the ouster of the Assad regime, which is allied to Iran and Russian Federation, and its replacement by a U.S. puppet.

A State Department spokesperson said the agency "continues to work with the worldwide community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria".

It was one of the earliest hubs of the Arab Spring-styled uprising against President Bashar Assad that swept through the country in 2011. Ibrahim and al-Gharbi inspected on Sunday Harasta and its suburbs, as well as the towns of Erbeen, Zmalka, Ein Tarma, Hazeh, Kafr Batna and Jisreen to assess required services needed for the area.

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. Douma is one of the last pockets of the opposition around the capital to hold out against the government.

On Monday, more than 600 people evacuated the town on buses sent by the government and the Syrian Red Crescent to take them to Jarablus, a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces.

There are also reports that the dominant militant group in Douma, so-called Jaish al-Islam, has struck a deal to evacuate the area.

Major General Yuri Yevtushenko, chief of the Russian centre for reconciliation of the Syrian warring parties, said the fighters were to hand over maps of mined areas and underground tunnels while leaving Douma, as well as clear major transport routes of barricades.

Trump reportedly ordered the funding to be frozen after reading a report about it in The Washington Post, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Later Sunday, a media outlet linked to the Syrian military reported that the Army of Islam also agreed to leave to north Syria, effectively transferring control of Douma to Damascus. Jaish al Islam has not commented on the reports. Douma local council member Iyad Abdelaziz said the buses were for medical evacuations and "humanitarian cases".

"Trump and his new team basically now are kind of violently anti-Iranian and leaving Syria would represent a total United States capitulation to Iranian influence in the region", Mr Lister told AFP.

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