Syria war: Rebels 'begin leaving last Eastern Ghouta town'

The Syrian government appears poised to regain control of the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta region close to the capital Damascus.

State media said the first members of the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group had left Douma on buses and were due travel to the northern town of Jarablus.

The government’s key ally Russia announced on Sunday that Jaysh al-Islam had agreed to an evacuation.

However, there has so far been no confirmation from the group.

Jaysh al-Islam continued to hold out after two other rebel factions – Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham – agreed last month to be evacuated from towns under their control to the mainly rebel-held northern province of Idlib.

More than 1,600 people are reported to have been killed and thousands injured since the government and its allies launched an offensive in mid-February to retake the Eastern Ghouta, which was the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus.

A state television correspondent reported that the “implementation phase of removing” Jaysh al-Islam from Douma began on Monday.

Image caption The UN estimates that 70,000 civilians are trapped inside Douma

A number of fighters and their families had left the town on four buses and passed into…

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