Rebels in Qalamoun region north of Syria's Damascus agree to evacuate
DAMASCUS, April 19 (Xinhua) -- A deal was reached on Thursday that will see the evacuation of the Islam Army militants and their allied rebels from areas they control in the eastern part of the mountainous Qalamoun region north of the capital Damascus, the media wing of the Syrian army and its allies reported.
The deal, mediated by Russia, will begin by the rebels' handing over their heavy weapons and military hardware to the Syrian side as of Friday.
It will be followed by the rebels' evacuation to rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib and the northern city of Jarablus, according to the report.
This comes after the Islam Army agreed to evacuate the town of Dumair in eastern Qalamoun, as the first batch of the militants and their families started leaving that town to an assembly point nearby for their evacuation later in the day.
The deal also comes after the Islam Army evacuated their last strongholds in the Douma district in the Eastern Ghouta a week ago.
The evacuation will be for the rebels and their families who refused to reconcile with the government, while others will stay in the town and settle their situation with the government in accordance with the deal.
State news agency SANA said 1,500 rebels and 3,500 members of their families are expected to evacuate Dumair, while data indicate that some 100,000 people live in Dumair.
Still, no clear number is given about those who will leave other towns in eastern Qalamoun.
The Syrian government is working to secure the surroundings of the capital Damascus with these deals with the rebels, or with the current military offensive on the Islamic State (IS) militants south of Damascus after securing Eastern Ghouta, which was the most dangerous place for the security of Damascus due to the daily mortar attacks and the infiltration attempts in the capital.