‘Final’ evacuation deal reached for Ghouta’s Douma

Published: Updated:

A “final” deal has been reached to evacuate rebels and civilians from Douma, the last opposition holdout in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said Sunday.

The deal, brokered by regime ally Russia, provides for Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families, as well as civilians, to be evacuated to rebel-held areas in the northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It will also see Russian military police enter the town and government institutions return to the area, the Britain-based monitor said.

Pro-regime newspaper al-Watan quoted “diplomatic sources” as saying a deal had been reached with the Jaish al-Islam rebel group that would see fighters put down heavy weapons and leave Douma for north Syria.

The Douma deal comes after two similar ones for two other pockets of Eastern Ghouta that have seen 45,000 people in total ferried on buses to the northwestern province of Idlib.

In another deal for Douma, evacuations were underway on Sunday for civilians -- including the sick or wounded, or family members of the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group -- to head towards Idlib, the Observatory said.

State television said a “number of terrorists from Faylaq al-Rahman” had started to leave Douma on Sunday, using its usual term for rebels. The Observatory insisted the deal was for family members of the rebel group only.

The regime has retaken 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta since it started a devastating air and ground assault on the last opposition bastion outside Damascus on February 18.

As of late Saturday, the main town of Douma was the only rebel holdout left of the former bastion.