UN Seeks Access to Douma in Eastern Ghouta, People 'on Their Knees'

Hannah Rogers
April 5, 2018

After a brutal month-old offensive, Syria's government and its ally Russian Federation begin securing evacuation deals to clear out Eastern Ghouta.

Four major rebel groups were now positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

SANA's correspondent in al-Wafideen Camp corridor said on Tuesday that 24 buses carrying 1198 terrorists affiliated to Jaish al-Islam and their families left Douma to Jarablos under the supervision of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

In April 2017, under a deal sponsored by regime ally Iran and rebel backer Qatar, almost 11,000 people leave four besieged areas.

The Syrian General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said in a statement that Eastern Ghouta, with the exception of Douma, was now under their control again.

Jaish al-Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The town of Douma was one of the earliest hubs of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011. Government forces extended their control over those areas over the course of a five-week offensive that killed at least 1,600 civilians and displaced tens of thousands more, according to the Observatory, an opposition-linked group that monitors both sides of the conflict.

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The opposition has been negotiating with Russian Federation, a key ally of Assad, for days on an agreement to evacuate Douma.

Footage has emerged which shows a tunnel network and underground hospitals left behind by militant groups in Syria's Eastern Ghouta.

Over the past weeks, as Syrian forces reclaimed towns and villages in eastern Ghouta, they gave rebels and all men of fighting age the choice of accepting amnesty and serving in the Syrian military conscription, or leaving to go to the north of Syria.

The rebels and their families are taken to Idlib.

They included 80,000 people now in collective centres in government-controlled areas, where conditions were awful, while 50,000 fled to opposition-held Idlib - which he called "the biggest cluster of displacement camps in the world" with around 1.5 million people. Turkey, with support from rebels, is running its own military operations against a US -backed Kurdish party that controls territory along the frontier.

"Since the beginning of the temporary humanitarian armistice, 3,480 militants and members of their families have been transported from the city of Douma", the Russian Defense Ministry said.

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