Russian Federation expects deal with major rebel group in Syria's Ghouta

Suicide vests, grenades seized as militants & their families leave E. Ghouta – Russian MoD

A convoy comprising 100 buses carrying almost 7,000 evacuated Syrian rebel fighters and civilians began leaving eastern Ghouta overnight, state media said on Tuesday.

Almost 6,800 members of the Faylaq al-Rahman militant group and their family members left the Arbil settlement in Syria's Eastern Ghouta on Monday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The first agreement, with hardline group Ahrar Al-Sham, saw more than 4,500 people, including rebel fighters, leave the town of Harasta last week.

The evacuation - the biggest yet out of the devastated enclave outside capital Damascus - is part of a deal reached last week between the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel faction and Russian Federation, which backs the Syrian government.

The largest convoy of evacuated militants and their families has departed Syria's Eastern Ghouta as the Syrian army presses ahead with a counterterrorism operation in the suburban area near Damascus. It put the total figure of civilians and rebels evacuated from the area since the Russia-sponsored "humanitarian pauses" were announced at 114,000 people.

Assad has used such evacuation agreements to recover swathes of territory since the uprising against his rule began seven years ago this month.

The regime responded with a crippling half-decade siege of the enclave's 400,000 residents, sealing off access to food, medicines and other goods.

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One hundred buses carrying 6,749 people - around a quarter of them fighters - left the Faylaq-controlled pocket in the early hours of Tuesday, state news agency SANA said.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the government offensive, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Should rebels lose their grip on Douma, their last stronghold in Eastern Ghouta, the opposition would be left with most of Idlib, Daraa and some parts of the northern suburbs of Homs.

The deal also demands the rebels to set free people they have previously kidnapped.

Jaish al-Islam spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar had said the negotiations were for a deal whereby the group lays down its heavy weapons in exchange for government-provided water and electricity returning to the town.

More than 120,000 crossed the front lines for safety, the Russian military said Tuesday.

But divisions within opposition ranks were holding up the talks, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"My mother's heart is broken from waiting", she says.Tens of thousands of Syrians have been reported missing in Syria since its civil war broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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