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Forced evacuations see extremists leave southern Damascus Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Forced evacuations see extremists leave southern Damascus

Militants will leave southern Damascus for northern Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 April, 2018

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Militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are leaving Yarmouk in southern Damascus, the latest forced displacement deal brokered by the regime following its deadly siege of the Palestinian refugee camp.
Rebel fighters in southern Damascus began the process of forced evacuation on Monday morning, boarding buses bound for northern Syria after the extremist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group reached a deal to hand over the territory to the Syrian regime after suffering weeks of deadly bombardment.

Fighters belonging to the Islamist group left Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp south of the capital, for the towns of Kafriya and al-Fu'ah in Idlib province.

Sources belonging to the Syrian opposition told The New Arab's sister site al-Araby al-Jadeed that militia fighters loyal to Assad were evacuated from the two towns in the Idlib countryside, in preparation for the rebel fighters and their families to arrive.

See in pictures: Evacuating to Idlib

The move comes a day after a deal was reached between the militant group and the Syrian regime to evacuate Yarmouk, as well as the surrounding neighbourhoods of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem. The cluster of neighbourhoods south of the capital were being held by a mixture of Islamic State and HTS - an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

The Syrian regime's announcements of the finalised deal followed more than a week of regime assault to oust the fighters from the capital's southern suburbs.

The deal gave fighters the choice between leaving the area with their families or handing over their weapons and staying, state news agency SANA said.

The deal would also see the release of 85 Alawite prisoners being held by HTS in the northwestern region of Jisr al-Shughour.

The reported deal is the latest in a string of such agreements that have seen the regime forcibly displace fighters and civilians as it retakes areas near the capital after driving rebels to surrender by devastating bombardment.

The siege of Yarmouk was different to that of Eastern Ghouta, as its narrow alleys and close building mean that heavy machinery and tanks could not enter, according to AFP.

At least 85 regime fighters and 74 IS jihadists have been killed in 10 days of fighting in southern Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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