Hundreds Prepare to Leave Terrorist-Held Regions in Southern Damascus
The departures come two days after a similar deal was reached to evacuate fighters once linked to al-Qaeda from Yarmouk, a Palestinian camp in Southern Damascus, massdar news reported.
Also, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Thursday that empty buses were entering Babila, Yalda and Beit Saham regions to be filled up with rebels and civilians who would head to militant-held parts of Northern Syria.
“Around 5,000 terrorists and their families are expected to leave, fulfilling an agreement reached on Sunday between the Syrian government and the militant groups,” the agency said.
The deal was reached after “negotiations between figures from the three towns on one side, and Russia and Damascus on the other,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.
Those rebels who wanted to leave for the North could do so, and those who wanted to stay would abandon their weapons and have their status with the Syrian state regularized.
Beit Saham, Yalda, and Babila had for several years fallen under a “reconciliation” agreement with the Syrian state, meaning they remained in rebel hands but a local ceasefire was enforced.
But after capturing the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold outside Damascus last month, the Damascus forces have sought to secure the entirety of the capital and its surroundings with a blend of military operations and negotiated withdrawals.
They first seized control of other “reconciled” towns East of Damascus, then began a military operation against Yarmouk.
The camp was mostly held by ISIL but also had a small presence of fighters from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at (Al-Nusra).
Under military pressure, the Al-Nusra fighters agreed to quit Yarmouk with their families earlier this week. The Al-Nusra said late Wednesday the deal saw 141 of its fighters reach northern Syria.
In exchange, it said, 18 wounded people and their relatives were allowed to leave a pair of government-controlled towns besieged by hardline militants in Northwestern Syria.
That deal is still expected to see some 5,000 people leave the two towns, Fua’a and Kafraya.