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Syrian forces in full control of Eastern Ghouta after rebels' evacuation

28 March 2018

According to Buedany, "the attack on Eastern Ghouta is temporary; after which the nation will witness a grand victory".

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally in the conflict, ordered daily five-hour ceasefires and the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta starting from February 28.

Eastern Ghouta's largest city Douma remained the only part still under rebel control.

The Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement that more than 400 people left Douma early Monday.

The Syrian Army on Saturday announced it had taken full control of Harasta town in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus, following the surrender of Islamist fighters.

Some hard-liners are even against holding talks with Russians, it said.

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.

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 Defence.

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The Russia-backed Syrian campaign succeeded in splintering the territory held by fractured rebel groups into three shrinking pockets, each held by different rebel factions. Syrian state media reported more than 4,500 people, including over 1,400 fighters, left the town.

"The ongoing negotiations with Russian Federation are to stay in Douma, not to leave it", Jaish al-Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar said late yesterday.

The evacuations come after thousands streamed out of Harasta, the first pocket after a similar negotiated deal for the evacuation of armed fighters and civilians.

Following the same pattern, Faylaq al-Rahman on March 22 sealed a deal for some 7,000 people to leave the enclave the rebel group controlled, which was experiencing starvation and the outbreak of disease under the bombardment.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels were divided on a deal with Moscow.

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.

"But I could never live alongside regime forces", he added.

Russian and Iranian military backing for Assad has also far outstripped support that had been offered to rebel groups from foreign states including Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. "We couldn't even find fodder to eat".

Syrian forces in full control of Eastern Ghouta after rebels' evacuation