Syrian regime ally Russia struck a deal with rebels to evacuate hundreds of civilians from Douma, the final opposition pocket in their former bastion of Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said Sunday.
“A partial agreement was reached to evacuate hundreds of civilians who wish to leave for Idlib,” the rebel-held province in northwestern Syria, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
In all around 1,300 people would be evacuated under the deal, Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that talks on the fate of rebels who hold Douma were still underway.
“Negotiations were continuing for a full agreement, including concerning the Jaish al-Islam” rebel faction, said the head of the Britain-based monitor.
I received an appeal for help from #Douma.
Almost 200.000 civilians are trapped in the last rebel-held town in #EastGhouta.
Situation: Jaish al-Islam wants to fight, but people KNOW they will lose & ask them to surrender.
ALSO: Nobody wants to go to #Assad's concentration camps.
— Julian Röpcke (@JulianRoepcke) March 31, 2018
A civilian committee taking part in the negotiations with Russia on Saturday said a deal had been reached “to evacuate humanitarian cases to northern Syria.” It gave no further details nor did it say when the planned evacuations would start.
The reports come after Syria’s army on Saturday vowed to finish off rebels in Douma, the main town in Eastern Ghouta. A statement said the military would press on with “fighting in the area of Douma to rid it of terrorism,” in reference to the rebels.
That announcement came after Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that another southern pocket of Eastern Ghouta was “empty of terrorism” as the last buses carrying rebels and civilians left it on Saturday afternoon as part of a deal to withdraw.
Since February 18, Russia-backed regime forces have recaptured the vast majority of Eastern Ghouta through the combination of a deadly air and ground assault and evacuation deals.
The assault has killed more than 1,600 civilians and caused tens of thousands more to flee into regime-held territory, the Observatory says.