Thousands more leave Syria’s rebel enclave

BEIRUT/AMMAN – Thousands of people left eastern Ghouta for Syrian rebel territory near the Turkish border on Tuesday, the third large group to leave under a deal brokered by Russia to surrender the enclave near Damascus to the Syrian Government.

Government forces were also mobilising around Douma, the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta, a war monitor reported, piling pressure on the insurgents holed up inside to cut a similar deal.

The Jaish al-Islam group, which has so far refused to leave Ghouta, said Russia had yet to give an answer to proposals that involve its fighters and civilians staying in Douma, adding that a meeting was expected on Wednesday.

Rebels have been leaving other parts of Ghouta in batches with their families.

About 7000 people — most of them fighters and their families — left on 100 buses in the early hours of the morning, the monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said. More buses drove into eastern Ghouta ahead of a further evacuation.

“We faced two choices: go to Idlib or make peace with the regime,” said Sakhr Yousef, a 24-year-old fighter with the Failaq al-Rahman faction, as he was preparing to leave eastern Ghouta with his wife and four young siblings.

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