Biggest convoy of evacuees leaves Syria's Eastern Ghouta


The largest convoy yet of eastern Ghouta evacuees arrived in northwestern Syria Tuesday and the regime threatened to resume its blitz if the last holdout opposition fighters don't follow suit.

It also permits civilians and militants to either leave for northern Syria or remain in Eastern Ghouta and reconcile with the government of Bashar al-Assad, with guarantees from Moscow that they will not be prosecuted.

Syrian rebel faction Jaish al Islam denies Russian statement that said they expect to reach an agreement on the group's exit from the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta.

Before the recent offensive, the suburb had an estimated population of 400,000.

The first round of negotiations between the Douma-based rebels and the Russians included talks on improving shelters for displaced civilians, the statement added.

The departures are part of a deal reached last week that resembles others used by the government to recapture territory throughout Syria's seven-year war. More than 4,500 people, including over 1,400 fighters, left Harasta for Idlib over the course of Thursday and Friday.

Evacuations of Syrian opposition fighters and their families from Eastern Ghouta continued on Wednesday amid reports that Syrian pro-regime forces carried out field executions and arbitrary kidnappings of civilians.

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More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the operation, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

They have recaptured more than 90 percent of it and are draining the last opposition-held pockets through negotiated withdrawals brokered by Russian Federation.

Douma-based activist Laith al-Abdullah told Al Jazeera that Faylaq ar-Rahman are trying to evacuate their extended family members now trapped in Douma - despite ongoing negotiations.

Jaish al-Islam would lay down its heavy weapons in exchange for government-provided water and electricity returning to the town.

Al-Watan quoted Syrian legislator Mohammed Kheir Seiryoul, who is originally from Douma, as saying that the understanding could lead to an agreement to dissolve the Army of Islam.

In previous evacuations about 6,000 people have already left the towns of Harasta, which was controlled by the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group, as well as Irbin, Zamalka, Jobar and the district of Ain Tarma, which were controlled by the Faylaq ar-Rahman rebel group.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen with Assad, visited Syria in December 2017 and said some Russian troops would begin withdrawing from the country but has continued to provide military support to Assad's forces. "We couldn't even find fodder to eat".