Last eastern Ghouta rebels poised to surrender: Syrian state media

Saudis publicly oppose U.S. exiting Syria while Israel objects quietly

Syrian state media said Monday the largest rebel group in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus began evacuating the last part of the area still under rebel control.

The Syrian government dispatched more than 50 buses to Douma to take the rebels out, SANA reported.

Jaish al-Islam, which has been defending the eastern Ghouta town of Douma against a ferocious onslaught by Russian-backed Syrian government forces, has not confirmed the agreement with the government.

Iyad Abdelaziz says there is no agreement reached to have the Army of Islam rebel faction leave Douma for north Syria and hand over the town to government forces.

The government offensive on Ghouta has been one of the deadliest of the war, killing more than 1,600 civilians, according to the Observatory.

More than 40,000 Syrian rebels and their family members have relocated to rebel-held parts of northern Syria, according to the Russian military.

"They will all have to agree to the settlement in the end", the source said.

Backed by Russia, Assad's forces have scored a series of victories over rebel forces in recent years, often through campaigns of siege, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread worldwide condemnation.

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Observatory head Rami Abdurrahman said the Army of Islam is divided over whether to evacuate Douma, with hard-liners demanding they stay and fight.

It was the first organized evacuation of fighters from Douma, which has held out against government forces through 7 years of war.

The once bustling commercial hub on the outskirts of the capital was the main center of street protests in the Damascus suburbs against Assad's one party rule that ignited the conflict more than seven years ago. Its power largely derived from Saudi aid and its control of an extensive smuggling network in eastern Ghouta.

Local activists have said that over 100,000 civilians are trapped inside Douma, which has suffered devastating damage.

Jaish al-Islam has been in Russian-brokered negotiations with the Syrian government for several days now.

Douma has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

"Turkey will not hesitate to use initiative if terrorists in Manbij are not driven away", a statement on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidential website last week read, warning the U.S. whose special forces there in the northern Syrian town continue to work with Kurdish-led groups.

The increase in special operations troops in the northern Syrian city was confirmed by Col. Thomas F. Veale, a USA military spokesperson and public affairs director for the global coalition against the Islamic State (IS), who said the recent deployment was a "protection measure to ensure the safety of coalition troops in the area".

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