03/26/2018, 09.28
SYRIA
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Ghouta East: evacuation continues, thousands of rebels have left the area

Over 5 thousand people including  rebels and family members left the area over the weekend. The government army now controls about 90% of the territory. Negotiations continue with another rebel group (Jaish al-Islam) for the surrender of Douma. Still civilian victims in the capital: a rocket kills a young football player, another seven wounded.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Over 5 thousand members belonging to the rebel groups and the civilian population have left some towns of the Ghouta East  yesterday.  Five weeks after the start of the offensive launched by the army of President Bashar al-Assad, government soldiers now control over 90% of the territory.

Throughout the weekend dozens of buses packed with fighters, their families and other civilians left the city of Douma, the last rebel stronghold in Ghouta East. The evacuation is the result of the agreement between government forces and a local rebel group, Faylaq al-Rahman.

Hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks by the Syrian army, supported by its Russian ally. In the context of the attack, the government divided the area into three different pockets, forcing the rebels to retreat.

Local witnesses report that this morning, since the first light of dawn, other vehicles have resumed evacuation operations; most of the displaced people are heading north, to the province of Idlib. According to the agreement negotiated between Moscow and the rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman about 7 thousand people in total will leave the area under siege.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue with another rebel group, Jaish al-Islam, for the complete surrender of Douma. The state TV is broadcasting images of government soldiers advancing in the towns abandoned by anti-Assad groups – including jihadist militias - which since 2012 controlled the area.

For the government, the conquest of the area on the outskirts of Damascus was a strategic and primary objective in terms of security. In the last period, the rebel groups had reinforced artillery and rocket attacks on the central quarters of the capital. Daily violence perpetrated by militia in the silence of the media and Western governments, were recounted in a harsh letter of accusation by the Trappist nuns and denounced by the apostolic nuncio Card. Mario Zenari.

The last civilian victims in the capital were registered on March 24: a young Syrian footballer, hit by the debris caused by the explosion of a rocket. Seven other people were injured with him.

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