Rebels, regime agree new deal for exit from Syrian town
DAMASCUS - Syrian state media reported Tuesday that rebels from the Jaish al-Islam faction would quit another town east of Damascus, just days after evacuating their main bastion outside the capital.
State news agency SANA said a new deal had been inked for the rebels to exit the town of Dumayr, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Damascus.
Jaish al-Islam had maintained control over the town since 2016 under a "reconciliation" agreement with regime forces, whereby they would not fire at each other.
But the new deal, SANA reported, "provides for the departure of around 1,000 terrorists from Jaish al-Islam to Jarabulus," a rebel-controlled northern town.
Rebels had already begun handing over heavy weapons as part of the agreement, it said. Jaish al-Islam has not commented on the deal.
It comes three days after Jaish al-Islam evacuated the last opposition-held town in the onetime rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.
Their departure paved the way for the Syrian army to declare its full control over Ghouta, after a ferocious two-month military assault on the enclave.
The offensive ended with a trio of evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of rebels and civilians bussed up to northern Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Tuesday that government forces were keen to clear out the armed opposition from any territory near Damascus.
"Regime forces, after taking all of Eastern Ghouta, want to finish off the rest of the rebel fighters around the capital so they can secure it," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
"This is why they're replacing the reconciliation deals with evacuation agreements," he said.
Similar rebel departures were being negotiated for other nearby towns and for areas south of Damascus including Yalda, Beit Saham, and Babila, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, government forces were preparing an assault on neighbourhoods in southern Damascus held by the Islamic State group.
The Observatory said Tuesday that regime forces had fired dozens of shells and rockets onto the areas overnight and that IS had retaliated with shelling on Damascus that left one child dead.