Syrian Army Makes Major Gains in Eastern Ghouta

A Syrian flag is seen flying on a damaged street in the Eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna
A Syrian flag is seen flying on a damaged street in the Eastern Ghouta town of Kafr Batna Credit AFP
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25 March, 2018

Waiting at the edge of Ghouta, Sabah al-Salloum desperately hoped her son Munzer - kidnapped four years ago by Ghouta rebels - would be among them.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon told Sputnik that the coalition is limiting its military operations against ISIS in eastern Syria as many Kurdish leaders within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have left the area to battle the Turkish forces in Afrin. The first batch of fighters to quit Ghouta under a Russian-brokered deal were bused out on Thursday and started arriving in the northwestern province of Idlib on Friday.

As many as 7,000 militants and their family members are to leave areas of Jobar, Zamalka, Arbeen, and Ayn Tarma in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday under a government deal that covers the main terrorist groups in control of those areas, namely the Failaq al-Rahman and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

At around 4pm local time (1400 GMT), state television reported that buses began entering Arbin after the army had cleared the sandberms and explosives.

The government-controlled Central Military Media said Friday that the deal is part of an agreement between the government and rebels in Douma in eastern Ghouta.

Rabieh Dibeh, correspondent for state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV, said the towns that are to be evacuated are Zamalka, Arbeen, Ein Tarma and Jobar.

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"Due to the major escalation with internationally banned weapons accompanied by global silence and inaction, and the intensification of the mass killing by Russia and the militias of Assad and Iran... an agreement has been reached after direct negotiations with the Russians", said Waiel Olwan, spokesman for rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman.

Faylaq al Rahman, the second largest rebel group in eastern Ghouta, has agreed to withdraw from the besieged enclave, says a war monitor and the regime media. A ceasefire is in place to prepare for the evacuation, due to begin on March 24, of the rebel fighters.

The departure of the rebels from their long-held Ghouta enclave means that only one other pocket of rebellion remains in the area: the city of Douma, capital of Douma district. Douma is effectively the last city still under total rebel control for awhile no agreement remains on withdrawal.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Syrian army forces and their allies have controlled 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta.

A similar deal with another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, led to the evacuation of hundreds of fighters and civilians from Harasta, another eastern Ghouta town.

The UN humanitarian agencies have sounded the alarm about the worsening humanitarian situation for 400,000 people in that region, where activists said around 1,000 people have been killed since late last month by the heavy bombardment and military showdown there.


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