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The most powerful Syrian rebel faction on the fringes of Damascus began abandoning its stronghold in the once rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta on Monday.

Regime news agency SANA said: "Twelve buses carrying 629 Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their families exited Douma... in preparation of them being transported to Jarabulus", using the government's term for all rebel fighters. Some 1,300 fighters, activists, and civilians signed up to leave the town, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

On Monday, the town of Al Dumair issued a statement after the first round of negotiations with the Russian Reconciliation Center, agreeing on working to preserve security in the city, prevent civilian evacuations and protect the civilians in the city. The government responded to the protests by putting Douma and other suburbs around Damascus under siege, bombing hospitals and residential areas, and blocking the entry of food and medical relief.

The Army of Islam ruled Douma with an iron fist, and embodied a more conservative and intolerant vision for Syria than the one promoted by the civil uprising of 2011.

It is also unclear whether all of the Army of Islam fighters have agreed to leave and how long the evacuations will take.

Jaish al-Islam has not confirmed any deal with the Syrian government over eastern Ghouta.

The second largest chunk of Syrian territory is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of militias spearheaded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG and supported by the US -led coalition against Islamic State.




A local council for Douma would be formed with the approval of the central government, said the government-linked Central Military Media outlet.

The Russian military says rebels are leaving the town of Douma in the suburbs of Damascus.

Opposition officials, however, denied the reports.

There was no immediate comment from the Army of Islam.

But journalists on the ground said both the regime and the opposition fighters had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma.

Bilal Abu Salah, a media activist in Douma, said Tuesday that the convoy of buses entering Jarablus contained humanitarian cases, including injured members of Jaish al-Islam.

Ahmad Ramadan, a prominent opposition figure in exile, told the Saudi TV channel al-Arabiya that the Army of Islam was still engaged in talks with Russian Federation over the future of the town. Ahmad Ramadan, an opposition figure, revealed on Sunday that Turkey was party to the talks as well.


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