Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta

Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta

Syrian regime claims last rebel group leaving Ghouta

Thousands of rebels, their families and other civilians have already departed other parts of eastern Ghouta for Idlib province, another insurgent-held area of northern Syria.

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"The armed forces' formations, aided by allied forces, wrapped up military operations in Damascus Countryside's Eastern Ghouta, with full control established all over its cities and towns", said the statement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war through a network of activists on the ground, also reported the evacuation.

"The operation could continue today or not". Indicating divisions in Jaish al-Islam, a Syrian military source told Reuters some of the fighters were rejecting the deal and the army would use force unless they accepted it.

Members of the last remaining and most powerful rebel group in the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus are leaving, according to Syrian state media.

In the morning, an AFP reporter saw dozens of empty buses waiting by the side of the highway and near a government-held checkpoint used by the buses to enter and exit Eastern Ghouta.

However, Jaish al-Islam has yet to confirm the report and only said on Saturday that it had agreed to evacuate the wounded to Idlib in northwestern Syria.

Jaish al-Islam has around 10,000 fighters in its ranks, the Observatory says.

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 put.

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

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.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege since 2012, but a renewed government assault that began in mid-February reportedly has left more than 1,000 civilians dead.

Tens of thousands of other civilians have fled to regime-held territory.

Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge. More than 40,000 rebels and their family members chose to relocate, according to the Russian military.

Mr Charles Lister, a senior fellow and director of the Extremism and Counter-terrorism Programme at the Middle East Institute, noted that a sudden withdrawal of USA forces would immediately bolster Iran, Russia and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

SANA said the military also found two underground field hospitals, equipped with medical equipment and medicine.

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