tiptrot.com July 17, 2018

Biggest convoy yet leaves rebel pocket of Syria's Ghouta

28 March 2018, 12:24 | Bernice Figueroa

More Russian diplomats expelled; Syrians bussed from Ghouta

Syrian army preparing'huge operation in Douma pro Damascus newspaper

The largest convoy yet of eastern Ghouta evacuees arrived in northwestern Syria Tuesday and the regime threatened to resume its blitz if the last holdout opposition fighters don't follow suit.

The rebel groups last week reached an evacuation deal with Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally in the seven-year war.

Retaking eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semi-rural area which had escaped government control since 2012, became a priority this year for Assad after a string of gains by the Syrian army elsewhere around the country.

The regime responded with a crippling half-decade siege of the enclave's 400,000 residents, sealing off access to food, medicines and other goods.

The Syrian Army on Saturday announced it had taken full control of Harasta town in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus, following the surrender of Islamist fighters.

Separately, he mentioned the forthcoming April 4 summit between Turkey, Iran and Russia in Istanbul, which Yuva said would "give a new dimension to the process of Syrian settlement against the backdrop of the development and strengthening of Russian-Turkish cooperation on Syria".

On Monday, more than 3,600 people, including hundreds of rebels, piled into more than 50 buses to leave the Faylaq-held pocket, state television said.

To help it capture the rest, Russian Federation has mediated talks with various groups to negotiate withdrawals from the three remaining pockets.

Nearly 1,000 people - including militants, their relatives and other civilians - were evacuated from Eastern Ghouta on Saturday and 5,435 others on Sunday.

"The negotiations are to remain, not to leave", Army of Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV from inside Douma.

A devastating Russia-backed government assault since February 18 on eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians but has brought 90 percent of the Damascus suburb back under government control, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said.

Another deal reached last week saw thousands of Ahrar al-Sham rebel fighters and civilians leave the battered town of Harasta in the west of the enclave.

Almost 6,800 members of the Faylaq al-Rahman militant group and their family members left the Arbil settlement in Syria's Eastern Ghouta on Monday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Al Watan quoted Syrian legislator Mohammed Kheir Seiryoul, who is originally from Douma, as saying that the understanding could lead to an agreement to dissolve Jaish al Islam.

"But I could never live alongside regime forces", he added.

The guarantees also tackled the safe departure of militants with their families and light weapons if they wish to leave from the city of Arbin to Qalaat al-Madiq in Northern Syria, accompanied exclusively by the military Russian police. "We couldn't even find fodder to eat".

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