Syrian rebels agree to evacuate town in Ghouta

Syria Assad Drives Himself

Assad and his allies are also attacking rebels in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, in an offensive that has involved intense bombardment.

A Russian-brokered deal has been reached to evacuate a Syrian rebel group from a town in eastern Ghouta, opposition sources and officials said on Wednesday, the first such deal in the remaining rebel bastion near the capital.

"Representatives of the countries who scramble to convene emergency sessions in support of terrorists at the UN Security Council in NY and the Human Rights Council in Geneva have once again remained tight-lipped over this atrocious catastrophe whose victims are women and children", the ministry pointed out.

Four major rebel groups are now positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. The Syrian opposition has criticized such agreements, saying they reward the government's siege tactics and legitimize the forced displacement of civilians from their homes.

The deal would be the first instance of fighters evacuating the rebel-held region east of Damascus which has been under a ferocious government air and ground assault for a month.

In Idlib province of northwest Syria, meanwhile, an air raid near a school in the town of Kfar Batikh killed 20 civilians, including 16 children, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Monther Fares, a spokesman for the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group, said the deal gives security guarantees for those who decide to stay in the town after the government takes over.

Eastern Ghouta lies within mortar range of central Damascus and the deal came after the deadliest rocket attack on the capital in months killed 44 civilians on Tuesday night.




The mortar assault targeted a busy market on the eve of Mother's Day, witnesses told state-run TV.

Defeat in eastern Ghouta would mark the worst setback for the anti-Assad rebellion since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing, ground assault and the promise of safe passage out.

"Keeping people in their homes and aid reaching them there is easier than bringing them to these public places", he said.

Yesterday's crimes are part of incessant attacks that have been carried out since the beginning of the crisis in Syria by terrorist gangs whom some like to brand "moderate opposition", the ministry said. The TV network did not identify the woman or the child.

The predicament of hundreds of rebels trapped in Harasta, one of the main towns in Eastern Ghouta, worsened after the army succeeded earlier this month in splintering Ghouta into three besieged zones, cutting off Harasta from other areas.

More than 100 civilians were killed in the last two days of air strikes in Eastern Ghouta with most of the raids on Douma city, the largest population centre with more than 150,000 people still living there. Video from the White Helmets showed rescue workers surrounded by fire and ongoing shelling struggling to retrieve survivors from a building in Douma.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday that while Syrian President Bashar Assad may fear punishment for civilian deaths in the country, the old slogan of "Assad must go" is no longer tenable.

They have said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave but have agreed to evacuation deals to get hundreds of sick and wounded civilians out under United Nations auspices. He said the number of civilians fleeing rebel-held areas has been declining after tens of thousands left in recent days.

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