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Delegation from Syria rebel enclave mulls evacuation deal

The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied negotiating with the Syrian regime. 

Published: 11th March 2018 04:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th March 2018 04:26 PM   |  A+A-

Syrians walk between destroyed buildings during airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta. (File | AP)

By AFP

HAMMURIYEH: A delegation from Syria's rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was on Sunday considering a partial evacuation deal to halt a fierce government offensive, a negotiator and monitor told AFP.

The two main rebel groups in the region, which borders Damascus, have firmly and repeatedly denied negotiating with the Syrian regime.

But on Sunday, as the government's Russian-backed assault entered its fourth week, influential figures in one rebel-held town were considering a possible evacuation offer.

VIEW GALLERY: Ghouta bombing continues, 130 children amongst dead

A committee from Hammuriyeh met with regime representatives on Saturday, a member of the committee told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

WATCH VIDEO: Airstrikes continue battering Syria

"The committee discussed a proposed reconciliation that would guarantee exit for those that want to leave, both civilians and rebels, from Hammuriyeh to other areas in Syria under rebel control," the delegation member said. 

Civilians and fighters may be bussed to rebel-controlled parts of Daraa province in Syria's south, or to Idlib in the northwest, held by rebels and a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

VIEW GALLERY: Rebel group clashes with President Bashar al-Assad's government forces

"The committee is meeting on Sunday to take a decision and inform the regime. If they do not agree, there would be a resumption of the military operation on Ghouta, including Hammuriyeh," the delegation member added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said negotiations for evacuations from multiple towns were ongoing Sunday.

VIEW GALLERY: Photographs that define Syrian civil war

"A decision could be taken any moment for Hammuriyeh, Jisreen, and Saqba," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. 

WATCH VIDEO: Russia callsdaily truce in battered Syria enclave

In recent years, the regime has recaptured several areas around Damascus from rebels by pursuing fierce military offensives culminating in evacuation deals. 

But Faylaq al-Rahman, the opposition faction that holds Hammuriyeh, denied it was engaging in talks.

"There are no direct or indirect negotiations with the Russian enemy or its allies," said the group's spokesman Wael Alwan.

"No one has been authorised to negotiate on behalf of Ghouta's revolutionaries, institutions, or the Free Syrian Army.



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