Evacuations of rebels and civilians from the last opposition pocket in Syria's Eastern Ghouta stalled on Thursday as divisions continued within the Islamist faction that holds the area, state media said..
A convoy of vehicles carrying civilians from eastern Ghouta to Al Bab district are seen in Aleppo in Syria on April 03, 2018.
Syrian government forces, backed by Russian Federation, have now recaptured almost all of eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, from the rebels in a ferocious assault that began in February, marking a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad.
A day earlier, SANA reported that 12,000 children from Eastern Ghouta returned to schools in the government-run shelters. The area includes a few towns and a stretch of desert territory, Reuters said. "Idlib can not become a battle zone, it's full of civilians and they are vulnerable displaced", he said. He said the aim was to avoid the "forced displacement" of people that had occurred in other areas recovered by the Syrian government.
The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the Army of Islam is divided over whether to evacuate Douma, with hard-liners demanding they stay and fight.
Evacuations of Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families from Douma started Monday under a Russia-brokered deal, with around 4,000 leaving the town.
Government forces along with its Russian ally launched a relentless ground and aerial offensive in February 18 to retake the Damascus suburb it had lost in mid-2013.
Saif told Reuters the civilians who met the Russian and Syrian military officers had expressed concern that a departure of rebel fighters would leave them vulnerable to attack by jihadists from Nusra Front or Islamic State.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
Jaish al-Islam has not confirmed any deal with the Syrian government over eastern Ghouta.
Russia's military also said Sunday that a preliminary agreement has been reached on the evacuation of Army of Islam fighters. Maj.
Of that number, around 80,000 have gone to shelters in Government-held areas of Rural Damascus and one-third have left voluntarily an important indicator of freedom of movement, the humanitarian official added.