Syrian opposition says no deal over Ghouta town

Glen Norman
April 3, 2018

Douma council have denied reports that a powerful rebel group in control of the Eastern Ghouta town have agreed to hand over the last opposition bastion in the area to the Syrian regime.

Other areas have been surrendered to the Syrian regime in recent weeks as part of so-called evacuation deals, which sees rebel fighters, their families, and other civilians leave their homes for other opposition areas as the regime take control.

Some 1,300 fighters, activists, and civilians signed up to leave the town, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The towns are located in a section of the Turkish-Syrian frontier where Turkey has carved out a buffer zone controlled on the ground by its military and allied fighters from Free Syrian Army rebel groups that are hostile to Assad.

After the four areas, only the district of Douma in the northern part of Eastern Ghouta remains under the Islam Army control amid ongoing negotiations mediated by the Russians for achieving similar agreement in Douma.

Division within ranks of fighters?

"The importance of this victory lies in restoring security and stability to the city of Damascus and its surrounding areas after the suffering of its civilians from the crimes of terrorists over several years", said the army statement, read on TV by Brig.

"This has happened within the framework of agreements reached through the mediation of Russian Federation between the Syrian army and the militants in Douma, first of all with the Jaysh al-Islam", the source said.

The sources confirmed that the deal was instead similar to the one reached in Qaboun and Barza, which stipulated the evacuation of fighters opposed to a deal reached with the Syrian regime, and their families to the north of Syria.

SOHR, on Monday, reported divisions within the ranks of Jaish al Islam, which has previously said it would not leave Douma.

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.

The US has about 2,000 soldiers in Syria who support local allies fighting IS, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) make up the majority.

Jaish al Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to SOHR.

Syria's seven-year bloodletting has left around 450,000 killed.

Meanwhile, more than a thousand Faylaq al-Rahman (al-Rahman Legion) militants have withdrawn from Douma via a humanitarian corridor at Wafideen Camp toward militant-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib.

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