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Syria's rebels announce refusal to evacuate Eastern Qalamoun Open in fullscreen

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Syria's rebels announce refusal to evacuate Eastern Qalamoun

Free Syrian Army fighters have vowed to remain in Eastern Qalamoun [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 April, 2018

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Rebel forces in Eastern Qalamoun are 'preparing for the worst' after rejecting any evacuation deal, despite regime threats of a large-scale military offensive.
Syrian rebel factions in the region of Eastern Qalamoun, an opposition-held pocket north east of Damascus, announced their refusal to strike an evacuation deal similar to that seen in Eastern Ghouta, that would cede territory back to the Assad regime, al-Araby al-Jadeed reported.

The group underlined their intention on Monday evening to defend the territory, which lies approximately 50 kilometres northeast of Damascus, by all means necessary from any attempts to forcibly displace them from the region.

According to a statement, rebel factions had formed a unified military command of Eastern Qalamoun, pointing out that it was opposed to holding any sort of negotiation over the future of the territory.

The rebels also pledged to protect the safety of the civilians living inside the enclave as well as its buildings and infrastructure.

The statement comes in response to threats made by the Syrian regime on Sunday that it would launch an offensive, similar to the devastating bombardment on Eastern Ghouta, if they did not negotiate an evacuation deal.

Opposition fighters in the region belong to a mix of Free Syrian Army factions, among them Faylaq al-Rahman, Jaish al-Islam, Forces of the Martyr Ahmmad al-Abdo, and Jaish al-Usud al-Sharqiya.

Fighters and civilians are mostly gathered in the towns of al-Dumayr, Jayrud, and al-Ruhaybah, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.
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Qalamoun-based opposition activist Marwan al-Qadi told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the Syrian Negotiations Committee, who represent the opposition, had informed negotiations broker Russia and the regime of their decision with Russia reportedly vowing to give a response by Wednesday.

He added that the rebels are ready to "face the worst case scenario" if Russia and the regime refuse to accept their insistence on remaining in the territory.

The Assad regime has been undertaking an intense campaign to oust opposition factions from the regions surrounding the capital.

After a ruthless military campaign that devastated the area and killed over 1,600 people, Assad's forces now control of more than 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta, a former rebel stronghold.

Having little choice but to strike an evacuation deal with the regime, 45,000 fighters and civilians were transported out of the war-ravaged enclave in March alone, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

They are currently being resettled in opposition-held Idlib province, northwestern Syria.

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