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As Syrian opposition quit Ghouta, Douma stands alone

Syrian opposition group in Ghouta enclave announces ceasefire
As Syrian opposition quit Ghouta, Douma stands alone
Syrian rebels began pulling out of several towns in their former enclave of eastern Ghouta, surrendering them to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's government and leaving the besieged city of Douma as their last bastion there, according to Reuters.

It comes after a month-long assault that devastated the already battered eastern Ghouta, an area of farmland and towns that was one of the first centers of the uprising in 2011 and the last major opposition stronghold near the capital Damascus.

Ten buses carrying fighters along with their families and other civilians started to leave the enclave after dark, the vanguard of a convoy heading into exile in northwestern Syria.

It follows the departure of thousands of others on Friday from the town of Harasta in a similar deal for opposition to depart with light weapons in return for giving up their territory.

The buses queued at a crossing point before moving into the enclave along a road on the former front lines that had been cleared of barricades, debris and unexploded ordnance.

Some captives held by the opposition were released and state television showed them leaving in a minibus.

The army was advancing into towns the rebels had retreated from in preparation for their exit, state television said. It broadcast pictures of the massive trenches and other fortifications the opposition were leaving behind.

It means only Douma is left of the opposition’s eastern Ghouta enclave which a month ago the United Nations said was home to 400,000 people.

The Assad army offensive to capture it, heralded by one of the heaviest bombardments in the seven-year conflict with warplanes, helicopters and artillery, has killed more than 1,600 people, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor.

Residents and rights groups have accused the government of using weapons that kill indiscriminately - inaccurate barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, chlorine gas and incendiary material that sets raging fires.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his close ally Russia, which has helped his air campaign, have denied using all those weapons and say their offensive was needed to end the rule of opposition militants.