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Rebel Army of Islam Flees Syrian Territory, Government Troops Move In

Rebel Army of Islam Flees Syrian Territory, Government Troops Move In

On Sunday, Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reported that a deal had been reachedfor Jaish al-Islam, or Army of Islam, to leave Douma.

But journalists on the ground said both the regime and the rebels had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma. The Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group, said Sunday's deal will also see Russian military police enter the town and government institutions return to the area.

Eight buses transporting the rebels left Douma and reached the crossing of Wafideen area northeast of Damascus, waiting for more rebels to leave so that the first convoy of Islam Army rebels can set off to Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo province near the Turkish border. Another salafist group in Douma, the Jaysh al-Islam, also accepted a deal and will be allowed to leave Douma for Jarabulus with small weapons after the Failaq al-Rahman group is transported to areas in the north western province Idlib still under control of armed groups.

Ghouta, which has been under siege for more than five years, captured world attention in August 2013 when an estimated 1,400 people died in a notorious chemical attack that changed the course of the war by making Russian Federation a major player.

Earlier in the day, SANA said as many as 38,000 rebels and their families have evacuated central towns of Eastern Ghouta toward rebel-held areas in Idlib since the evacuation process started last Saturday.

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

Pro-regime newspaper Al Watan said in an editorial on Monday it was a matter of hours until Douma was declared a "town empty of terrorism".

There was no immediate comment from Jaysh al-Islam.

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"We will stay in this town and will not leave".

No date was given for the pullout and Moscow said rebels were expected to demine buildings and clear roadblocks before leaving.

Jaish al-Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Backed by Russia, Assad's forces have scored a series of victories over rebel forces in recent years, often through campaigns of siege, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread worldwide condemnation.

At least 46,000 people have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta since the evacuation process began on March 22.

Although no official statement was issued by the faction, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the deal "is not similar to the previous ones that involved Harasta, which was controlled by Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, or Jubar and Zamalka, which were controlled by Failaq al-Rahman".

A man had a gun slung on his shoulder as he picked up a travel bag, while a young boy, who appeared weak and unable to move his limbs, was carried into an ambulance. At least 1,644 civilians, including 344 children, have been killed in the offensive that began on February 18 and reduced some neighborhoods to rubble, according to SOHR, which monitors the seven-year Syrian war through activists on the ground.


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