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Another evacuation deal reached as Syrian regime and Russian Federation pummel Ghouta

25 March 2018

The rebel group, Failaq al-Rahman, said in a statement Friday that civilians who decide to stay in eastern Ghouta will be guaranteed safety.

A blistering Russian-backed assault since February 18 on the last opposition bastion near Damascus had splintered rebel territory into three shrinking pockets, each held by different factions.

The government has implemented a "leave or die" strategy to retake Ghouta, reducing swathes of it to rubble with air strikes and artillery fire but keeping open the offer of evacuation.

In the rebel pocket in the southern part of eastern Ghouta, Failaq al-Rahman, which is linked to the Free Syrian Army, had announced its intention to negotiate on Thursday, when Mr Alwan said a ceasefire had been agreed.

Faylaq al-Rahman, the Islamist rebel group that controls the area, agreed to pull out in exchange for an end to almost five weeks of devastating bombardment by the government and its allies.

The evacuations from the towns of Arbin, Zamalka, and Ain Tarma had been scheduled to begin Saturday morning, but a military source said they were delayed due to "logistical issues", including unblocking and de-mining the route they would take.

The rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, one of at least three operating in the sprawling region, says intense government attacks targeted the area it controls on Thursday.

Syrian forces, backed by Russian Federation, launched air and rocket attacks and took back control of most of eastern Ghouta last month.

The departure comes a day after Faylaq al-Rahman agreed to surrender its territory in Ghouta - including the suburbs of Arbeen, Zamalka, Ein Tarma, and Jobar - in exchange for safe passage north to Idlib province.

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The spokesman of the dominant Failaq al-Rahman rebel group there, Wael Alwan, had earlier said it was negotiating with the government's ally Russian Federation.

The combatants handed over their heavy weapons and left Harasta as part of an agreement reached between the Syrian authorities and the Islamic Movement of the Free People of the Levant (frequently referred to as Ahrar al-Sham).

The Syrian Ministry of Defence has released a video showing government tanks in action during what was mostly likely the final major push (again, pending events in Douma) of the Syrian Army's East Ghouta campaign; appearing several times in the footage is a BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle.

What did Faylaq al-Rahman say?

Douma is effectively the last city still under total rebel control for awhile no agreement remains on withdrawal.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday that it has received several allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria's Eastern Ghouta enclave, though admitted a thorough investigation of the claims will be hard.

With the conflict grinding on into its eighth year, Syria's government is more determined than ever to clear opposition holdouts around the capital.

Student Layal al-Jumaa who lives in a Damascus neighbourhood that overlooks Harasta woke up Saturday after a full night's sleep uninterrupted by bombardment.

In the capital Damascus, a mortar shell hit the Fayhaa soccer stadium, killing footballer Samir Massoud, who used to play for the Army Club, and wounding six other people.

Another evacuation deal reached as Syrian regime and Russian Federation pummel Ghouta