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Ghouta Falls in Syrian Regime's Clutches

03 April 2018

A group of stranded fighters from another insurgent group, Failaq al Rahman, who had fled to Douma from advancing army troops at the start of the latest campaign, left the city on Sunday, state media said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the news, saying that a deal brokered by regime ally Russian Federation would see fighters with the Jaish al-Islam faction leave Ghouta's main town of Douma for opposition-held territory in northern Syria.

A final deal has been reached for fighters and civilians to leave the last opposition-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Sunday, paving the way for Syria's regime to retake the onetime rebel enclave near Damascus.

The government is waiting for the rebels to leave the besieged town of Douma, just east of Damascus, before it can say it has full control of the area, after seven years of revolt. It was one of the earliest hubs of the Arab Spring-styled uprising against President Bashar Assad that swept through the country in 2011. Some 1,600 civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced. Syrian activists say the group has told them it is determined to remain in Douma.

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.

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He said the buses leaving Douma on Monday were transporting wounded fighters as a first step in the evacuations. It said the bus had left eastern Ghouta Friday night.

"The United States is working every day on the ground and with the global community to help stabilize those areas liberated from ISIS and identify ways to move forward with reconstruction once there has been a peaceful political transition away from (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad", the statement said.

Assad, who has military support from Iran and Russian Federation, now controls the bulk of Syria, though it may be hard for him to recover much more territory without risking a collision with other foreign powers that have forces inside the country.

On Sunday, the Syrian government-linked Central Military Media outlet said that once the evacuations were completed, a local council for Douma would be formed with the approval of the central government.

The government was not party to the negotiations over Douma, which were conducted between Russian Federation and the Army of Islam. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting 19 pro-government fighters were killed. A Briton also was killed and five other people were wounded in Thursday's bombing - a rare attack since the USA -led coalition sent troops into the country.

Ghouta Falls in Syrian Regime's Clutches