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

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

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

Russian air strikes killed 37 civilians in the Arbin area of the shrinking rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday.

Eastern Ghouta was once the opposition's main bastion on the outskirts of Damascus, but the government has recaptured more than 90 percent of it through a mixture of military pressure and evacuation deals.

More than 1,600 civilians have died in Eastern Ghouta since the regime launched a blistering assault on the last rebel bastion near Damascus on February 18, the Observatory says.

"Due to the major escalation with internationally banned weapons accompanied by global silence and inaction, and the intensification of the mass killing by Russia and the militias of Assad and Iran... an agreement has been reached after direct negotiations with the Russians", said Waiel Olwan, spokesman for rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman.

The second agreement, with Faylaq al-Rahman, provides for the transfer of an estimated 7,000 people to Idlib province.

The evacuations from the towns of Zamalka, Arbin and Ain Tarma had been scheduled to begin at 9 am (0700 GMT) but by late morning, state television said logistical preparations were still underway.

Talks are still ongoing for the final area around Ghouta's largest town of Douma, but negotiated withdrawals have already been reached to clear two other zones.

The state media say more than 6,000 left the day before. There, the rebels will evacuate and head for the northwestern province of Idlib.

The rebels said in a statement Friday that the agreement will allow humanitarian aid and medical care to be delivered to civilians in the area, who have lived through years of occupation and almost nonstop fighting as of late.

Retaking Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semi-rural area which had escaped government control since 2012 and lies within mortar range of central Damascus, was made a priority this year after a string of regime gains.

The government-controlled SCMM said a corridor was prepared for Faylaq al-Rahman members and their relatives to leave the towns of Zamalka, Arbeen, Ein Tarma and Jobar.

In the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib, a vehicle bomb exploded near a court building killing at least six people and wounding 25, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense. On Friday night, Harasta was void of rebels for the first time in six years.

The first deal brokered by Russian Federation was reached with the hardline Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham for the town of Harasta.

On Saturday, hundreds more left Douma to government-controlled areas including 700 government supporters that the rebel group had been holding for years, according to SCMM.

State television reported that 15 buses had left so far on Friday carrying 882 people, including 283 fighters.

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. Syrian troops have taken 70% of the enclave.

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