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Syrian rebels leave last opposition stronghold in Eastern Ghouta

Syrian rebels are leaving the final parts of Eastern Ghouta [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 April, 2018

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Syrian rebels have started the painful pull out of the last opposition town in the Damascus suburbs, ending a years' long battle against the Assad regime there.

The last Syrian rebel fighters are leaving the opposition stronghold of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus after days of negotiations, media reported Monday.

Jaish al-Islam fighters boarded three buses in Douma and set off for northern Syria, as part of a so-called evacuation deal with Russia.

The Syrian regime said that 50 buses had been sent to Douma for rebel fighters abandoning the last town in Eastern Ghouta still under opposition control to the Turkish-Syrian opposition controlled town of Jarabalus in the north.

It ends a years' long revolt by rebels in the Eastern Ghouta region, with fighters in the Damascus suburbs at one time threatening Bashar al-Assad's regime in the capital.

Jaish al-Islam were the most powerful of the rebel factions and after days of denials it now appears that the group will quit Douma, after other rebel groups also left Eastern Ghouta for Hama and Idlib.  

Russia and the Syrian regime launched a devastating assault on the Damascus countryside in February, killing over 1,600 civilians in weeks of bombing.

Forces managed to capture large parts of Eastern Ghouta with rebel fighters forced to leave the last towns in their control.

Many civilians also abandoned their homes, fearing reprisals from the Syrian regime's brutal security forces.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for much of the war and has been subject to some of the most intense shelling and bombing by the Syrian regime and Russia. 

In 2013, Eastern Ghouta was targeted with sarin gas, killing hundreds of civilians.

Syrian opposition groups have also fired mortars into Damascus.

Years of bombing and siege by the Bashar al-Assad regime have devastated the area that was once the bread basket of Syria.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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