Rebels and civilians set to evacuate Syria’s eastern Ghouta following weeks of bombing

Syrian civilians, evacuated from rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

HARASTA, SYRIA – Buses waited outside a bombed-out town in Syria’s eastern Ghouta on Thursday after a deal was announced to evacuate rebels and civilians following weeks of regime bombardment.

The deal, announced on Wednesday and brokered by regime ally Russia, could mark a major step forward in government efforts to secure the nearby capital, Damascus.

The evacuations from Harasta had been scheduled to start at 0500 GMT, but an AFP correspondent at a government checkpoint on the edge of the town said they were running late.

A spokesman for hard-line Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, which controls the town, said they would go ahead nonetheless.

A member of a committee involved in the negotiations said 1,600 fighters and thousands of members of their families were expected to leave.

Eastern Ghouta has faced a blistering assault by the army and allied militia since February 18 that has taken back most of the enclave and sliced what remains into three pockets held by different rebel groups.

Source: Japan Times

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