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Executive Summary for March 23rd

We review the key developments in Syria, including more than 1,000 people, among them hundreds of fighters, evacuating a town in Eastern Ghouta as part of a Russian-backed deal and airstrikes on Idlib province killing more than 30 people.

Published on March 23, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

More Than 1,000 People Evacuate Eastern Ghouta Town

Syrian state media said that at least 1,580 people, including 413 rebel fighters, left the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta on Thursday as part of a Russian-backed evacuation deal, Agence France-Presse reported.

Roughly 30 buses exited the battered opposition holdout heading for the northern province of Idlib, in the first such agreement since government forces launched an assault to retake Eastern Ghouta on Feb. 18.

Pro-government media had previously reported that 1,500 fighters and 6,000 family members had agreed to leave Harasta as part of the agreement. A spokesman for the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group, which controls Harasta, said on Thursday that evacuations could continue in the coming days, AFP said.

An unidentified military source cited by Reuters said that between 18,000 and 20,000 people were expected to remain in the town under government rule.

According to AFP, the evacuations from Harasta “could empty one of three rebel-held pockets in Ghouta as government troops seek to secure the nearby capital.

“It could also further isolate the rebel groups that control the remaining two pockets of Ghouta and piles pressure on them to accept similar deals.”

In other parts of Eastern Ghouta, the Failaq al-Rahman rebel group announced that it had reached a cease-fire agreement under the auspices of the United Nations.

The cease-fire is expected to go into effect at midnight on Friday, according to AFP.

A spokesman for the group, which commands a rebel enclave in southern parts of the besieged suburbs, said the cease-fire would allow for “a final round of negotiations” between rebels and Russia.

The announcement came after at least 38 people were killed in airstrikes and artillery attacks targeting an area under Failaq al-Rahman’s control on Thursday, AFP said, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Meanwhile, unidentified opposition figures told AFP that talks were also underway to evacuate rebels and their families from the town of Douma – the most populous part of Eastern Ghouta.

Dozens Killed in Airstrikes on Idlib

At least 34 people, including 17 children, were killed on Thursday in airstrikes on the last province in Syria under opposition control, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The airstrikes targeted the town of Harem, in the northern countryside of Idlib province near the border with Turkey, the United Kingdom-based SOHR said.

Thursday’s attack raises the death toll in Idlib to 63 since Tuesday, the SOHR said. Those include at least 40 children and seven women, the monitoring group reported.

On Wednesday at least 20 people, including 16 children, were killed in airstrikes on the village of Kafr Batikh.

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