Syrian rebels surrender more territory outside Damascus | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 21.04.2018
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Middle East

Syrian rebels surrender more territory outside Damascus

Syrian rebels are leaving an enclave northeast of the capital, state media reported. It comes as Russia said inspectors from world's chemical arms watchdog had arrived in Douma, where an alleged chemical attack occurred.

Anti-regime fighters and civilians are being bused out of a northeast Damascus suburb on Saturday, after rebel forces agreed to cede the territory to Assad's forces, which are backed by Russia and Iran. 

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Buses have started leaving a town in East Qalamun, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Damascus, the state news agency SANA said.

Syrian state television reported 3,200 militants and their families are to be transported to Idlib and Jarabulus, a rebel-held area along the Turkish border.

Earlier this week, rebels agreed to surrender the town of Dumayr, an enclave northeast of Damascus. About 5,000 people, including 1,500 fighters, left the town.

Read more: Rebels and civilians abandon Ghouta

Seven-year civil war

Meanwhile, the Syrian army, backed by its allies, maintained its bombardment of another rebel stronghold, this one south of the capital.

State TV showed footage of plumes of smoke rising over the al-Hajar al-Aswad district, which is part of an area that is home to the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp. 

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UNRWA, the UN aid agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, said it is very concerned about the well-being of thousands of civilians, including Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk and the surrounding areas.

The government's seizure of Eastern Qalamun and the area south of Damascus will leave just one besieged rebel enclave north of Homs.

Read more: Rebel factions leaving Ghouta

Large areas of Syria along its borders with Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Iraq remain outside Syrian government control. Anti-Assad forces also dominate large areas in the southwest and northwest, while Kurdish-led militias, with support from the United States, control large swathes of northern and eastern Syria.

Separately, the Russian foreign ministry claims that inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in the Syrian town of Douma on Saturday. That is the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on April 7.

 "According to information we have, the special OPCW mission... arrived on the morning of April 21 in the city of Douma at the sites suspected of having toxic substances," according to a statement.

Syria's civil war has left around 350,000 people dead and displaced millions more since fighting broke out in 2011 with the military's brutal suppression of anti-government protesters.

Read more: Rocket fire kills 35 in Damascus

bik/ng (Reuters, AFP)

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