Syria's war: Surprise rebel evacuation from Eastern Ghouta

Marsha Scott
March 11, 2018

The Syrian army has captured 52 percent of Eastern Ghouta in recent days, as part of an ongoing wide-scale offensive to dislodge the rebels from that key area on the eastern rim of Damascus.

On Friday, an emergency aid convoy crossed front lines into eastern Ghouta and delivered its supplies.

Almost 950 civilians have been killed since Russia-backed government forces launched a blistering assault on the last opposition bastion near Damascus on Feb 18.

It said the initiative was "based on consultations between Jaish al-Islam and the United Nations, and a number of global actors".

The Syrian army is making steady advances in the enclave, but it is facing a hostile West, which is threatening airstrikes to stop the push.

The assault has followed a divide-and-conquer strategy, eating away at rebel-held territory, and government forces on Saturday successfully isolated Ghouta's main town of Douma in a blow for the beleaguered rebels.

According to Syrian state media, 13 fighters were evacuated with their families through the al-Wafeedin passage and bussed to Idlib province.

In a statement, Jaish al-Islam said the imprisoned fighters would be sent to a rebel-held area in northwest Syria.

Syrian Red Crescent show trucks convoy of the Syrian Red Crescent which carry humanitarian aid to be distributed in Douma eastern Ghouta a suburb of Damascus Syria Friday

According to reports, more than 400,000 people still reside in the region, seven years into the Syrian civil war.

Pro-government forces have now reportedly taken half the area.

Grandi added that while most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon have expressed a desire to return to their home country, "almost all of them say not right now" and any plans of them returning are "very premature".

The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman. HTS was excluded from a ceasefire agreed at the United Nations that has yet to come into effect.

Further north in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the Turkish army and its Free Syrian Army allies could enter the town of Afrin "at any moment" and are surrounding its centre.

Both the SOHR and an embedded news agency reporter said that Turkish forces had captured a military base from Kurdish groups and were seen taking heavy machine guns out, while exchanging fire with Kurdish fighters.

The four civilians were trying to pass through a recently opened humanitarian corridor from Jisrein to Mlekha during the twelfth humanitarian pause, SANA reported citing its journalist on the ground on Saturday. "But they're also desperate for someone to come and help them out".

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Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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