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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

People's Daily Online

1,146 Islam Army militants leave Damascus' Eastern Ghouta to northern Syria

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:40, April 03, 2018

DAMASCUS, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Some 1,146 militants of the Islam Army and their families departed the Douma district in Eastern Ghouta toward the rebel-held Jarablus city in the north, marking the first batch of this rebel group to evacuate their main stronghold near Damascus, according to the state news agency SANA.

Buses transporting the rebels left Douma and reached the crossing of Wafideen area northeast of Damascus, before they set off late in the evening to Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

The evacuation of the rebels and their families from Douma comes a day after a deal was reached between the Islam Army militants and the Syrian army under the mediation of Russia.

Douma is the last rebel-held area in Eastern Ghouta, after other towns in that sprawling countryside have seen the evacuation of all the rebels and their families toward Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

According to the deal reached a day earlier, the Islam Army will hand over their heavy and medium weaponry and a workgroup will be formed under a Russian leadership to supervise the release of the kidnapped soldiers and civilians in the prisons of the Islam Army.

The Russian military police will enter that district to "assure" the civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

This deal was reached after marathon negotiations as the Islam Army would be the last rebel group to leave Eastern Ghouta after 43,000 rebels and their families left other areas in Eastern Ghouta since last week.

The Syrian army launched a massive operation last late in February on the rebels in Eastern Ghouta and secured the evacuation of 150,000 civilians who were hosted in government-run shelters until the situation settles in their areas in Eastern Ghouta for their return.

Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge.

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