Assad's media says main remaining rebel faction leaving Eastern Ghouta

Syria US Turkey

Syria US Turkey

The most powerful Syrian rebel faction on the fringes of Damascus began abandoning its stronghold in the once rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta on Monday, opening the way for the regime forces to secure full control of the area, after seven years of revolt.

"The town of Douma has come closer to joining other villages and areas of [eastern] Ghouta taken back by the army", it said.

A final deal has been reached for fighters and civilians to leave the last opposition-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Sunday, paving the way for Syria's regime to retake the onetime rebel enclave near Damascus. The channel said troops entered the towns and raised the national flag in Arbeen's main square. The Syrian news agency added that on Monday civilians will start returning to Harasta, one of the towns freed from terrorism in Eastern Ghouta, after roads and bridges are cleared of ruble and debris.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

At least 1,644 civilians, including 344 children, have been killed in the offensive that began on February 18 and reduced some neighborhoods to rubble, according to SOHR, which monitors the seven-year Syrian war through activists on the ground.

The network of tunnels also extended for around three kilometers and connected Arbin to Ein Tarma, Jobar, and Zamalka.

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The US has about 2,000 soldiers in Syria who support local allies fighting IS, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) make up the majority.

In the past few weeks, these deals have seen more than 46,000 people - fighters and civilians - board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwestern province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.

On Feb. 24, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401 that called for a cease-fire in Syria - especially in Eastern Ghouta - to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The top United Nations official in Syria, Ali Al-Za'tari, told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV in an interview aired Saturday that "Idlib can not take more people". "Those who want to leave should leave", Essam al-Buidani says in the video, although it was unclear when it was filmed.

Under the deal, Syrian state media said Jaish al-Islam would hand over heavy and medium-sized weapons and acknowledge the restoration of the Damascus government's control of Douma.

A political official in Jaish al Islam denied they had agreed to evacuate Douma and said the government-inspired reports were stepped up psychological warfare aimed at forcing them to capitulate.

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