30 rebels surrender to Syrian army after evacuating Harasta

30 rebels surrender to Syrian army after evacuating Harasta

Syrian rebels said Wednesday they have agreed to evacuate a bombed-out town in Eastern Ghouta, the first such deal since the start of the regime's month-old assault on the enclave.

The gruesome attack comes after an earlier shelling on a market in Damascus which killed 43, including 11 pro-government fighters.

The evacuated rebels are to be bussed to Idlib, a province out of government control that hosts a myriad jihadist, Islamist and secular groups, many of them with links to Turkey.

Hospital director Mohammed Haitham al-Husseini told Al Ikhbariya TV that 35 were wounded, with six in intensive care.

Johnson added that with Assad now controlling 75 percent of the population and 50 percent of the territory, there is "a huge amount of slaughter still to come", so the best thing would be "to get round the table in Geneva and begin the process of a new constitutional settlement for Syria".

It would begin with an evacuation of injured civilians, he added, saying the remaining civilians in the town were "facing untold suffering".

A local official in the opposition-run Harasta council was quoted by opposition news outlets that a deal had been reached but did not say when it was expected to be implemented.

Until today, two humanitarian corridors were active in Eastern Ghouta. He said the number of civilians fleeing rebel-held areas has been declining after tens of thousands left in recent days.

"Representatives of the countries who scramble to convene emergency sessions in support of terrorists at the UN Security Council in NY and the Human Rights Council in Geneva have once again remained tight-lipped over this atrocious catastrophe whose victims are women and children", the ministry pointed out.

Western diplomats and Jordan, which borders the southern part of Syria, are anxious the Syrian army will launch an offensive to regain control of the strategic area that is now covered under a US-Russian deal setting up a "de-escalation" zone that has reduced violence.

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The Syrian authorities accused rebels of firing the rockets in revenge attacks which rebels deny.

Last year, rebels launched an offensive on army barracks on the edge of Harasta that led to retaliatory attacks.

In two identical letters addressed to the UN Secretary General and President of the UN Security Council, Foreign and Expatriates Ministry blasted the silence of some UN member states over the incessant attacks of terrorists on civilian areas in Damascus which it said "amount to a genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity".

A day earlier, the Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said the planned evacuation of rebels is awaiting consensus among the militiamen in that area after an agreement was recently reached.

Meanwhile, militants from the al-Qaeda-linked Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group are going to evacuate the city of Harasta in the Eastern Ghouta.

The Syria-controlled Military Media Center said 1,500 armed rebels and 6,000 civilians will evacuate Harasta on Thursday to the northern province of Idlib as part of a negotiated deal.

On Monday an airstrike in Arbin in eastern Ghouta killed 15 children and two women sheltering in the basement of a school, the Observatory said.

They have however publicly said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave.

The United Nations says around 100,000 people have fled the region since the start of the assault on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia there on January 20.