28 March, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally in the conflict, ordered daily five-hour ceasefires and the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to leave Eastern Ghouta starting from February 28. Another 20,000 fighters and civilians, refusing to reconcile with the government, have elected to relocate to the rebel-held Idlib province in northern Syria.
The first ceasefire agreement in Eastern Ghouta was concluded with the Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group that agreed to the evacuation of up to 7,500 militants and their families from the town of Harasta.
Almost 1,000 people - including rebels, their relatives and other civilians - were evacuated on Saturday, followed by 5,435 people on Sunday.
The government has repeatedly used such "reconciliation deals" to recapture territory lost during Syria's seven-year war.
The Russian military said on Monday it was close to reaching a deal with the Jaysh al-Islam, or Army of Islam, rebel group to arrange its exit.
Before the recent offensive, the suburb had an estimated population of 400,000.
Since Feb. 19, more than 1,000 people have reportedly been killed in attacks by the regime and its allies in Eastern Ghouta.
Devastating air strikes and artillery fire have reduced large parts of Ghouta to ruins, forcing their residents to abandon them.
Russia Closes Eastern Ghouta File Leaving Duma City Out
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem landed in the Omani capital on Monday for talks with officials, the two countries' news agencies said.
She has spent sleepless nights waiting by the roadside near Harasta, after hearing rebels were releasing detainees as part of a deal with the regime to evacuate the battered town."I'm scared they'll come out at nighttime and won't find me".
Eight were freed on Sunday and another 26 the following day, SANA said.
Before they faltered, talks over Douma's fate had envisioned Jaish al-Islam laying down its heavy weapons in exchange for government-provided water and electricity returning to the town.
The town, controlled by the powerful Army of Islam, is also home to tens of thousands of people, including many who were displaced over the past weeks of fighting as government forces pushed deeper into eastern Ghouta.
Russian and Iranian military backing for Assad has also far outstripped support that had been offered to rebel groups from foreign states including Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
But divisions within opposition ranks were holding up the talks with some hardliners seeking to sabotage the proposed deal, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Federal Bureau of Investigation asks Austin bomber to contact law enforcement
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