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Syrian Rebel Group Agrees to Deal for Evacuating Ghouta Wounded

By VOA News March 12, 2018

One of the main Syrian rebel groups in the besieged eastern Ghouta area says it has reached an agreement with Russia to evacuate wounded people from the region on the outskirts of Damascus.

Jaish al-Islam announced the move Monday, saying it had communicated with Russia through the United Nations to reach the deal.

It was not clear if the wounded involved were rebel fighters, civilians or both. The group said the evacuations would take place in stages, but did not detail the timing or where the people would be taken.

The Syrian military, backed by Russian forces, has in the past month pressed an offensive in eastern Ghouta aimed at reclaiming control of one of the last major areas around the country's capital that is still in the hands of opposition fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, says more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in eastern Ghouta.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011, and the Observatory says the overall death toll is now more than 500,000 people.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded a 30-day halt in fighting across Syria in order to allow those in need of medical care to get help and for humanitarian aid to reach people who need food and supplies. So far, the council's resolution has been largely ignored.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to brief the council Monday as it meets to discuss implementation of the cease-fire.

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