Over 105000 civilians have left Ghouta, says Russia

The withdrawal deal came after Russian air strikes using incendiary munitions hit the town of Arbin on Thursday, killing 37 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The first buses arrived at a camp after spending the night on the edge of rebel-held territory.

Since Feb. 19, almost 1,000 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta.

The departure comes a day after an agreement was reached between Faylaq al-Rahman, the second most powerful rebel group in eastern Ghouta, and the Russians to surrender the second of three pockets in eastern Ghouta, where rebels have been holding up over the past years.

Many had their bags already packed in readiness for leaving their hometowns and heading northwest to Idlib, the last province still largely under opposition control.

The deal provides for "the transfer of almost 7,000 people, fighters and their families" from an area in the south of the enclave held by rebel group Faylaq al Rahman, regime television said.

On Friday, rebels were withdrawing from Harasta, as part of a ceasefire deal reached with Russian Federation.

The operation split the region into three nonadjacent, rebel-held pockets, which are now down to two with the evacuation of Harasta.


State television broadcast footage on Saturday of a sea of people - dragging suitcases, carrying crying children - trudging down one of the routes out of Ghouta.

The Syrian Ministry of Defence has released a video showing government tanks in action during what was mostly likely the final major push (again, pending events in Douma) of the Syrian Army's East Ghouta campaign; appearing several times in the footage is a BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle.

"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.

The evacuation will take place on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) after the rebels hand over maps of the tunnels they dug and mines they planted in the aforementioned areas.

Douma is controlled by the Jaish al-Islam, or the Islam Army, rebels' group, which has so far been out of other agreements recently reached with other rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta.

The opposition lost large parts of the area, with the Syrian army claiming it has now recaptured 80 percent of Eastern Ghouta.

"We unfortunately have a steady stream of reports coming out of Eastern Ghouta: of attacks of bombardments, all kinds of illegal weapons being used." said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during a news conference in Geneva.

  • Tracy Klein