Syria rebels wait to quit enclave on Damascus doorstep

Syria rebels wait to quit enclave on Damascus doorstep

Syria rebels wait to quit enclave on Damascus doorstep

In the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib, a auto bomb exploded near a court building killing at least six people and wounding 25, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition's Syrian Civil Defense.

"The humanitarian situation continues to be catastrophic, with no food, emergency items nor medical supplies and outbreaks of disease due to civilians stuck in crowded and insalubrious basements", Faylaq Al Rahman spokesman Wael Alwan told AFP before the deal.

In a televised broadcast, Syrian state media Sana said that the evacuation of 7,000 people - fighters and their family members - to Idlib will begin on Saturday at 9am (07:00 GMT).

A rebel group in Eastern Ghouta says it has reached a deal with the Syrian government to evacuate fighters and civilians to the opposition-controlled northwest province of Idlib.

The departure comes a day after an agreement was reached between Faylaq al-Rahman, the second most powerful rebel group in eastern Ghouta, and the Russians to surrender the second of three pockets in eastern Ghouta, where rebels have been holding up over the past years.

More than 1,600 civilians have died in Eastern Ghouta since the regime launched a blistering assault on the last rebel bastion near Damascus on February 18.

Harasta's evacuation came as part of a deal negotiated by Russian Federation, which has played a key role in the deadly offensive launched against the enclave on February 18.

Another person released said "they used to beat us, keep us hungry and place us underground in the cold and we did not know when they would kill us".

The first batch of fighters to leave Ghouta arrived at a camp in Idlib province on Friday after spending the night on the edge of rebel-held territory.

Syrian forces have split Eastern Ghouta into three pockets, which are under the control of three different rebel groups.

The first deal brokered by Russian Federation was reached with the hardline Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham for the town of Harasta. "We couldn't even find fodder to eat".

Retaking Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semi-rural area which had escaped government control since 2012 and lies within mortar range of central Damascus, was made a priority by the regime this year.

The SOHR said a total of 4,700 people left Harasta in the past two days, including 1,300 combatants and some 2,500 women and children.

"Other civilians are leaving as well, people who were involved in opposition activities like media activists, medics, civil defense volunteers", said Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr, explaining that they are often considered terrorists by state authorities and as such are at risk.

A third part of the enclave, which includes the city of Douma in the north, is controlled by the Jaish al-Islam opposition group and is the last section under rebel influence.

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