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Ghouta shelled by Syria regime, as rebels 'refuse to evacuate' Open in fullscreen

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Ghouta shelled by Syria regime, as rebels 'refuse to evacuate'

Children look down from a destroyed building following airstrikes on Sunday in Douma [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2018

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Syria's regime continued its bombardment of Douma on Sunday night, as Eastern Ghouta's last remaining rebels refuse to evacuate the besieged opposition enclave.
The Syrian regime broke a truce agreement in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday night, by shelling the town of Douma, the last area of the besieged enclave still under rebel control, al-Araby al-Jadeed reported on Monday.

The truce was put in place in order to facilitate Russian-brokered negotiations between the Assad regime and Jaish al-Islam rebels over a purported peace deal.

So-called "evacuation deals" have seen two other rebel groups cede control of swathes of Eastern Ghouta to the regime and travel in droves to opposition-held parts of northern Syria.

Jaish al-Islam, however, are reportedly refusing any forced evacuation to Idlib and are attempting to negotiate a deal to remain in Douma. The group are reportedly demanding that rebels who want to leave are taken to Eastern Qalamoun, some 100km northeast of Damascus.

Syrian activist Mohammed al-Shami told al-Araby al-Jadeed that regime forces shelled Douma causing damage to buildings. Clashes also broke out between Jaish al-Islam fighters and the regime military on the Douma-Harasta border. No casualties were reported.

The leader of the rebel group's political office Mohammed Alloush, said in a statement that negotiations were held on Sunday between Jaish al-Islam and Russia, with the next round of talks expected in three days' time.

He stated that talks touched upon "the dire conditions of shelters in Adra where some Ghouta civilian evacuees have been taken", as well as allowing much-needed aid into the enclave and the continuation of the ceasefire for the duration of the talks.

On Monday morning, the third round of evacuees from Arbin, Zamalka, Ain Terma and Hazza towns arrived in northern Syria  after leaving the enclave overnight in a convoy of 94 buses, carrying some 6,000 civilians and Faylaq al-Rahman rebels according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The evacuation process from this area, referred to as the central portion of Eastern Ghouta, is expected to be completed in the coming days.

The so-called evacuation deals come after years of siege and bombardment that have been a major strategy by the Syrian army to force rebels to surrender and help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recover all of Aleppo, Homs and other areas.

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