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  • A man stands on rubble of damaged buildings in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 30, 2018.

    A man stands on rubble of damaged buildings in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 30, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 April 2018

Jaish al-Islam fighters will leave Douma for the city of Jarablus, near the border with Turkey, within 48 hours, a government source said of the agreement.

An agreement has been reached to release all prisoners held by Syrian anti-government forces controlling the eastern Ghouta city of Douma in return for the fighters' leaving the city, Syrian state television reported Sunday, citing an official source.

According to the agreement, Islamist Jaish al-Islam fighters will leave Douma for the northern city of Jarablus, near the borders with Turkey, within 48 hours, the source added.

The opposition group has more than 3,500 prisoners and hostages in its prisons in Douma, Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, told Reuters. Five prisoners were released Wednesday, after earlier departures by Jaish al-Islam fighters.

Russian news agency RIA, citing a security source, said Jaish al-Islam fighters will leave Douma in two batches in the coming hours.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has regained control of nearly all of eastern Ghouta in a Russian-backed military campaign that began in February, leaving just Douma in the hands of the anti-government group. Tens of thousands of people are estimated to be sheltering in the battered city.

On Saturday evening, Jaish al-Islam accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack on Douma but the government and its allies Russia and Iran, denied Assad forces have carried out any such attack and said the reports are being used as an "excuse" for military action, as has been suggested Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The conquest of Douma would further strengthen Assad's political and ground position, as it recaptures the biggest anti-government enclave near Damascus.

The groups controlling the eastern Ghouta area had shelled the capital's neighborhoods almost daily in the past few months, inflicting casualties and damages.


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