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Hundreds of opposition fighters begin evacuating Syria's Ghouta

Hundreds of opposition fighters begin evacuating Syria's Ghouta
Hundreds of opposition fighters begin evacuating Syria's Ghouta

Hundreds of rebel fighters began leaving the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Thursday, forced out after weeks of heavy aerial bombardment that has caused more than 1,500 deaths, according to CNN.

Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, is one of Syria's last significant opposition-held areas and the latest target of regime forces, who have besieged the territory.

 

The Syrian regime is continuing with a sweeping campaign to flush opposition fighters from key parts of the country with the backing of their powerful ally Russia and its warplanes.

Syrian regime forces guard buses ready to transport opposition fighters out of Harasta, Eastern Ghouta.

Fighters belonging to the group Ahrar Al-Sham agreed to leave the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta in a deal with the regime and Russia's support. Syria and Russia have agreed to provide them safe passage, and allowed them to take their weapons and families with them.

As many as 1,500 fighters and 6,000 of their family members are expected leave Harasta.

Thirteen men held by armed groups in the town were also released earlier in the day as part of the deal, Syrian state TV reported.

Ahrar Al-Sham is one of three main opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta. The regime offensive on Eastern Ghouta has split the enclave into three pockets, and Thursday's evacuation would essentially return power to the regime over the smallest of these pockets around Harasta.

There is no indication that the other two armed opposition groups have struck similar deals, but the agreement puts pressure on them to leave.

A spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, Omran Mohammad, confirmed the agreement and said that fighters had begun leaving Thursday and were allowed to take their weapons and families.

Mohammad, from Ahrar Al-Sham, said that the fighters agreed to leave because "people's lives matter and we had the obligation to save their lives."

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