Syrians await new evacuations from Eastern Ghouta

Screen grabs from a video released by the Israeli military showing the airstrike on the suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor

Mehmet Yuva from the University of Damascus has recalled that Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria was followed by the liberation of Eastern Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, which he said "evidently means that all these processes are interrelated".

Hundreds of members of a rebel group and their relatives boarded 17 buses in preparation to leave eastern Ghouta to opposition-held areas north of the country Saturday as part of an agreement to evacuate the second of three pockets held by opposition fighters east of the capital Damascus, Syria's state media reported. Some 200,000 people, including many who fled other parts of Ghouta, are estimated to remain in the town.

The Russian Defense Ministry's Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement that more than 400 people left Douma early Monday.

Jaish al-Islam, the powerful faction that holds Douma, had hoped talks with Moscow would result in their staying in the town, instead of being bussed out like other opposition fighters.

The first round of negotiations between the Douma-based rebels and the Russians included talks on improving shelters for displaced civilians, the statement added.

It is a tactic Assad and his Russian sponsors used successfully in Aleppo and elsewhere since Russia intervened in the seven-year civil war in 2015.

One, implemented last week, involved hardline rebels from Ahrar Al Sham leaving the town of Harasta in the west of the enclave. It put the total figure of civilians and rebels evacuated from the area since the Russia-sponsored "humanitarian pauses" were announced at 114,000 people.

The Russia-backed Syrian campaign succeeded in splintering the territory held by fractured rebel groups into three shrinking pockets, each held by different rebel factions.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the government offensive, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the deal could see Jaish al-Islam lay down heavy weapons in exchange for the return of government-provided water and electricity to the town.

"All forces involved in Eastern Ghouta are heading towards Douma ahead of a massive military operation if the terrorists of Jaish al-Islam do not agree to hand over the city and leave", the daily said, citing a military source.

Al-Watan, a newspaper close to the Syrian government, reported Tuesday that military forces were already amassing around Douma.

Russian military police, but not Syria's army, would deploy there.



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