Syria rebels prepare to quit penultimate pocket of Ghouta

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Russian Federation struck on Friday a new agreement with an opposition faction in Eastern Ghouta to evacuate the wounded, fighters and civilians to the opposition-controlled northwestern province of Idlib in line with talks launched with Jaysh al-Islam to reach a deal in Douma, the last opposition stronghold near Damascus.

The departure of the rebels from their long-held Ghouta enclave means that only one other pocket of rebellion remains in the area: the city of Douma, capital of Douma district.

The Bashar al Assad regime and its ally Moscow have implemented a "leave or die" strategy with deadly air strikes on the enclave.

On Friday, March 23 afternoon, the Syrian army took full control of the district town of Ayn Tarma in Damascus' East Ghouta region after an nearly two-day battle, Al-Masdar News says.

Some 80 civilians were reported killed on Thursday in bombardments of the territory held by Faylaq al-Rahman before they sealed a deal for some 7,000 people to leave.

A deal, struck with another group for the smaller pocket of Harasta, began on Thursday and talks are under way for the third and final pocket, which includes Douma.

There was no immediate confirmation from Faylaq al-Rahman on whether their fighters were going to Afrin, but the faction is known to be backed by Ankara.

Syrian forces, backed by Russian Federation, launched air and rocket attacks and regained control of most of eastern Ghouta last month.

The White Helmets, a civil defence organisation operating in rebel-held areas, said most of the dead were women and children.

Assad rains fire on the last of the rebels: Incendiary explosives fall in militant-held region of Ghouta as hundreds of

On Friday, rebels were withdrawing from Harasta, as part of a ceasefire deal reached with Russian Federation.

Assad and his allies say their offensive in eastern Ghouta is necessary to end the rule of Islamist militants over the area's people, and to stop them shelling government areas.

State television reported that more than 60 buses had left Harasta since Thursday, carrying over 3,800 people including more than 1,000 fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a United Kingdom based war monitor, reported that the last group of evacuees arrived Saturday in the town of Qalaat al-Madiq in Hama province, from where they will head for neighbouring Idleb.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said that before leaving Harasta, Ahrar al-Sham members had blown up a weapons depot, injuring four Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers, who were providing assistance to locals.

"This is the first time in many months that I slept deeply", Jumaa, 24, told AFP.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday that it has received several allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria's Eastern Ghouta enclave, though admitted a thorough investigation of the claims will be hard.

With the conflict grinding on into its eighth year, Syria's government is more determined than ever to clear opposition holdouts around the capital to halt rebel rocket fire onto Damascus.

Student Layal al-Jumaa who lives in a Damascus neighbourhood that overlooks Harasta woke up Saturday after a full night's sleep uninterrupted by bombardment.

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