WORLD Russia, Islam Army reach comprehensive deal on Damascus' Douma

WORLD

Russia, Islam Army reach comprehensive deal on Damascus' Douma

Xinhua

01:59, April 02, 2018

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A Syrian man walks down a street past destoyed buildings on March 25, 2018, in Douma, Damascus. (Photo: AFP)

A comprehensive deal has been reached between the Islam Army rebels and the Russians about the situation of the Douma district, the last rebel-held area in Damascus' Eastern Ghouta countryside, state news agency SANA reported on Sunday.

The official news agency said the deal will see the evacuation of the Islam Army rebels toward the rebel-held Jarablus city in the northern countryside of Aleppo province.

Other rebels who don't want to leave will be included in the reconciliation process to settle their legal status.

The militants will also have to hand over their heavy and medium weaponry to the Syrian state, according to SANA.

The deal also ensures the return of state institutions to Douma to assume their duties.

The deal includes the release of all kidnapped civilians and military personnel from the Islam Army prisons in Douma as well as the bodies of the slain soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was cited by the Saudi-funded Alarabiya TV as saying that the Russian military police will enter Douma to "reassure the civilians."

Also, a military wing in the Islam Army called Abdul-Rahman Kakeh is expected to leave for rebel-held areas in the northwestern Idlib province.

According to the observatory, the civilians who are not linked to the Islam Army can head to any destination and the wounded will be evacuated to northern Syria.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state media outlets said that a group of Failaq al-Rahman rebels evacuated Douma on Sunday, as this group had been in control of several towns that have fallen to the Syrian army in central Eastern Ghouta.

The rebels left through the crossing between Douma and the Wafideen area northeast of Damascus.

Earlier in the day, the observatory said that 1,300 civilians, including activists, will evacuate Douma toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria, as part of a preliminary understanding between the Islam Army and the Russian side.

Those civilians will evacuate Douma through the corridor between Douma and the Wafideen, according to the observatory.

Negotiations between the Russians and the Islam Army have been ongoing for quite some time, in an attempt to reach an understanding similar to what has been reached in major areas in Eastern Ghouta, where the rebels and their families have completely evacuated their key areas.

After the last batch left the towns of Jobar, Arbeen, Zamalka and Ayn Tarma on Saturday evening, the entire Eastern Ghouta has become under the government control except for Douma, which is the largest and most densely-populated area in Eastern Ghouta.

In its offensive that started late last month, the Syrian army captured large swathes of Eastern Ghouta and when it got close to the four towns, the rebels of Failaq al-Rahman asked for their evacuation.

The observatory said the only obstacle in the negotiations between the Islam Army and the Russians was the destination of 60,000 rebels and their families in Douma, a large number in comparison with the number that has evacuated the four towns as local reports placed the number of rebels and their families who evacuated other areas of Eastern Ghouta at around 40,000 people.

Eastern Ghouta, a 105-square-km agricultural region consisting of several towns and farmlands, poses the last threat to the capital due to its proximity to government-controlled neighborhoods east of Damascus and ongoing mortar attacks that target residential areas in the capital, pushing people over the edge.

Four major rebel groups have been in control of Eastern Ghouta since 2012, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

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