Deal reached to evacuate gunmen from Ghouta

Terry Joseph
March 22, 2018

Videos of the aftermath of the attack posted online showed scenes of chaos, with people screaming and bodies and mannequins strewn across the ground.

Hospital director Mohammed Haitham al-Husseini told Al Ikhbariya TV that 35 were wounded, with six in intensive care.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitor, said the strike hit near a checkpoint held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group that consists largely of ex-members of a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The gruesome attack comes after an earlier shelling on a market in Damascus which killed 43, including 11 pro-government fighters.

Idlib is the largest area still controlled by insurgents in Syria.

"The deal between the regime and rebels in Harasta sees rebels exiting the city with their weapons, and whichever civilians want to leave, to northern Syria with Russian guarantees", said Munzer Fares, spokesman for the Ahrar al-Sham group in Ghouta.

In other parts of Syria, government forces have also pressed the rebels to enter into local cease-fire agreements under which the militants and their families would relocate to other parts of the country.

The rebels were also offered to be pardoned under local reconciliation terms, two opposition sources said.

Western diplomats and Jordan, which borders the southern part of Syria, are anxious the Syrian army will launch an offensive to regain control of the strategic area that is now covered under a US-Russian deal setting up a "de-escalation" zone that has reduced violence.

It would begin with an evacuation of injured civilians, he added, saying the remaining civilians in the town were "facing untold suffering".

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Last year, rebels launched a major offensive on army barracks on the edge of Harasta that led to retaliatory attacks.

Until today, two humanitarian corridors were active in Eastern Ghouta.

Assad has vowed to end what he says is a terrorist threat near his seat of power in Damascus. The rebels first seized the area in 2012.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in two separate letters addressed to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the rotating president of the UN Security Council, Karel J.G. van Oosterom, on Wednesday, stated that the ongoing militant mortar and rocket attacks against residential districts "amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity". Other civilians and fighters would be evacuated to rebel-held Idlib in northwest Syria in coming days, the commander said.

The Syrian government has decried the silence of the worldwide community on the incessant terrorist attacks against civilian neighborhoods in Damascus, calling on the United Nations to expose the real goals behind the ongoing foreign-sponsored militancy against the Arab country.

The Syria-controlled Military Media Center said 1,500 armed rebels and 6,000 civilians will evacuate Harasta on Thursday to the northern province of Idlib as part of a negotiated deal.

Residents and rescuers say the Russian air force stepped up bombing of Harasta town as talks were going on to broker the deal. Both countries have backed rebel groups during the war.

They have however publicly said they reject Russia's offer to leave the enclave.

The defeat in Eastern Ghouta would mark the worst setback for the anti-Assad rebellion since the opposition was driven from eastern Aleppo in late 2016 after a similar campaign of siege, bombing, ground assaults and the promise of safe passage out.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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