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Buses in Syria's Eastern Ghouta for more evacuations

07 April 2018

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

The United Nations says up to 100,000 people have returned to the Syrian city of Raqqa after a devastating air campaign by a US -led coalition to drive out Islamic State group fighters.

The evacuation came a day after the militants left the towns of Arbin, Ein Tarma, Jobar and Zamalka as a result of the agreements reached with the Russian peace and reconciliation center in Syria.

The now deserted highway was pockmarked with bomb craters and wound its way through bleak, apocalyptic scenes of neighbourhoods destroyed by years of fighting in Syria's bloody civil war.

State media said the first members of the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group had left Douma on buses and were due travel to the northern town of Jarablus.

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It said those on board were fighters and family members belonging to the Army of Islam, the largest rebel group in eastern Ghouta. With no reports of recent fighting or air raids in eastern Ghouta, he hoped the battle there was now over.

He added, however, that "humanitarian cases" would be allowed to evacuate on Monday.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says the United States' pullout from Syria is an excuse for soliciting money from countries that want them to remain there.

At the time, mainstream rebels held more territory in Idlib, Homs, and around Damascus - and they still had Ghouta.

The five had been abducted by the Army of Islam rebel group in Ghouta in 2013 along with many other civilians, it said.

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Fighters from the Jaish al-Islam group will leave Douma to north Syria, possibly to the city of Jarablus, controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, a Syrian opposition source close to talks held between the group and Russian Federation told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.

More than 45,000 rebels and their families have been evacuated from eastern Ghouta since March 22 to be relocated in Idlib, according to Syrian authorities.

A view of an underground tunnel under the recently-captured Jobar town in the Eastern Ghouta, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry and Syrian rebels struck a deal on Sunday for the Army of Islam, the biggest opposition group in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta, to leave the area for the rebel-controlled north.

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Buses in Syria's Eastern Ghouta for more evacuations