Hundreds gather to leave second pocket in Syria's Ghouta

Bashar Assad

Bashar Assad

Rebels who have left eastern Ghouta so far have gone to Idlib, an insurgent-held region at the Turkish border.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, gave the group 48 hours to agree to leave or face a final assault on the town, where Syrian opposition activists say some 150,000 civilians are trapped.

The evacuation - the biggest yet out of the devastated enclave outside capital Damascus - is part of a deal reached last week between the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel faction and Russian Federation, which backs the Syrian government. Some in the area of about 400,000 people have sought sanctuary in underground hideouts, and food has been scarce since government forces wrested control of tunnels used to smuggle supplies.

The fate to which eastern Damascus' cities have settled, falls under the plan followed by the Syrian regime, in which it used the civilians as a pretext to penetrate the depths of the opposition-held areas, especially Asha'ri, Hamouriyah and Kafr Batna, which Assad's forces have controlled in sync with the civilians' departure.

Despite the ceasefire resolution, however, the regime and its allies early this month launched a major ground offensive - backed by Russian air power - aimed at capturing opposition-held parts of the district. He called on the factions in Southern Syria to take action to support Eastern Ghouta, pointing out that Assad's forces military action will be directed at Daraa and Idlib after getting done with the Ghouta file.

A first deal saw the withdrawal of hardline Islamist rebels Ahrar al-Sham from the town of Harasta last week.

Moscow has brokered talks with the rebel groups that control the three remaining pockets of the enclave.

Successor Ashraf Sehrai more rigid than Syed Ali Geelani
Everywhere and anywhere suppressed and oppressed nations struggle and strive to get rid of forceful occupation. However, Syed Ali Shah Geelani will continue as the APHC (G) Chairman indefinitely, the sources said.

It was the single largest one-day evacuation yet from Eastern Ghouta, after almost 1,000 people were bussed out from the same area on Saturday.

"The Russians don't want an agreement for Douma that's different from other parts of Ghouta, but Jaish al-Islam wants to stay and doesn't want any residents to leave", the source said.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the operation, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

Similar terms were reported by Syria's pro-government Al-Watan daily.

Almost 6,800 members of the Faylaq al-Rahman militant group and their family members left the Arbil settlement in Syria's Eastern Ghouta on Monday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

"But I could never live alongside regime forces", he added.

It would also provide for the deployment of Russian military police and the return of regime institutions and basic services like water and electricity.

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