Syrian Army Makes Major Gains in Eastern Ghouta

25 March 2018, 12:56 | Isaac Mcdaniel

A rebel fighter in Hasrata in Ghouta carrying a child before being evacuated from the besieged pocket yesterday. – EPA pic

Fighters from Ghouta pocket reach rebel-held Idlib

Eastern Ghouta was once the opposition's main bastion on the outskirts of Damascus, but the government has recaptured more than 90 percent of it through a mixture of military pressure and evacuation deals.

Since February 18, a Russian-backed air and ground assault by Syrian troops has brought most of the area under government control, and Damascus is using evacuation deals to clear the last three pockets.

"Due to the major escalation with internationally banned weapons accompanied by worldwide silence and inaction, and the intensification of the mass killing by Russia and the militias of Assad and Iran... an agreement has been reached after direct negotiations with the Russians", said Waiel Olwan, spokesman for rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman.

Failaq al-Rahman said in a statement Friday that the deal will lead to the immediate evacuation of sick and wounded people for treatment and to allow aid to enter the besieged area.

The agreement will involve clearing a southern stretch of territory that includes the towns of Zamalka, Arbin and Ain Tarma.

The Observatory said negotiators left the enclave late Friday morning as guns fell silent after air strikes and advances by pro-government forces had continued past the midnight ceasefire deadline.

Syrian forces, backed by Russian Federation, launched air and rocket attacks and regained control of most of eastern Ghouta last month.

Laerke said: "we help those tens of thousands of people who are fleeing and coming out, and as I mentioned the other day, they come out in a really bad state of mind, and physical condition, it's frightful".

It has been marked by tactics the army and its ally Russian Federation have increasingly used to crush resistance - lay siege to an area, bombard it, launch a ground assault and finally offer the rebels and their families safe passage to the northwest.

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The TV titled its coverage as "Harasta is empty of terrorists", as the Syrian government regards most of the rebels as terrorists.

The government-controlled SCMM said a corridor was prepared for Faylaq al-Rahman members and their relatives to leave the towns of Zamalka, Arbeen, Ein Tarma and Jobar.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the army offensive to capture it has left more than 1,600 people dead.

The United Nations estimates more than 50,000 people have left besieged areas of eastern Ghouta in the past nearly two weeks.

The second stage of militant exit from the town of Harasta located in Syria's Eastern Ghouta has been completed, Syrian state television reported.

"We hate the fact that we have to leave Ghouta", said Abu Khaled, a 28-year-old jihadist fighter and Ghouta native.

Eastern Ghouta's largest city Douma remained the only part still under rebel control. In the course of the ongoing offensive, the Syrian military has retaken the overwhelming majority of the territory, limiting rebel access to the capital. "I really don't know if this is a dream or real life".

Just hours later, rocket fire hit a sports club in Damascus, killing one child and wounding seven, state news agency SANA reported.

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