Thousands Leave Eastern Ghouta in Largest Single-Day Evacuation Yet
At least 6,749 people left the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus overnight Monday and early Tuesday, in the largest single-day evacuations from the rebel bastion, Agence France-Presse reported.
At least 1,620 rebels were reportedly among those who left the enclave, according to the Associated Press.
Monday’s evacuations from Arbin, Ein Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar marked the third consecutive day on which fighters and civilians fled a pocket under the control of the Failaq al-Rahman rebel group as part of a Russian-mediated evacuation deal announced on Friday.
More than 5,400 people were evacuated from the towns of Arbin and Zamalka and Jobar district on Sunday as part of the agreement, which grants fighters and their families a safe exit to opposition-held territory in Syria’s north and includes an offer of reconciliation for those who wish to stay. Another 980 people left Zamalka, Arbin and Ein Tarma on Saturday.
Meanwhile, only the town of Douma, the most populous area in Eastern Ghouta, remains under rebel control.
The Jaish al-Islam rebel group – which controls the encircled pocket – is still in the process of negotiating a deal with Russian forces to end a government offensive against the area, the AP reported on Monday.
The rebel group had previously rejected the prospect of evacuating the opposition enclave, saying that it is negotiating an arrangement that would allow it to remain in Douma.
War Monitor: Russia and Turkey Strike Deal Over Tal Rifaat
Russia and Turkey have allegedly reached an agreement that would allow the latter to assume control over the northern town of Tal Rifaat, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday.
This comes days after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Kurdish-held town would be the next target of Ankara’s cross-border campaign in Syria.
The SOHR said that a meeting between unidentified Russian and Turkish representatives in the northern countryside of Aleppo resulted in an agreement that would allow for Turkey to assume control over Tal Rifaat and surrounding villages that are currently controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia. The details of the arrangement were not immediately clear.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group that has carried out a number of attacks inside Turkey in recent years.
Tal Rifaat currently hosts some 50,000 people who have been displaced by Ankara’s eight-week campaign against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, which began in January. The Turkish military on Sunday said it has secured complete control over Afrin, after driving YPG fighters from the area.
- Agence France-Presse: As Ghouta Empties, Syrians Try to Spot Loved Ones on Buses
- The Guardian: ‘Why We’re Paying the Rent for a Million Syrian Refugees’
- Middle East Eye: After Five-Year Siege, Residents Say Goodbye to Eastern Ghouta
- The New York Times: Sketching Cruelty and Finding Humanity Beside Syria’s ‘Waterfall of Blood’
- Atlantic Council: Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch Threatens to Worsen Arab-Kurdish Relations