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‘40,000 civilians return to Syria’s E Ghouta’

3 April 2018 14:41

Russia says more than 40,000 civilians have returned to Eastern Ghouta after the Syrian capital’s countryside was almost fully liberated from militants.

The Russian Defense Ministry made the announcement on Tuesday.

The returnees had initially left the Damascus suburb using four humanitarian corridors set up to enable their safe exit from the area.

Militants had been using the area to launch incessant rocket attacks on the capital. Backed by Russian airpower, the Syrian army has been trying to liberate the countryside to both spare the capital from the attacks and liberate thousands of other trapped civilians, whom militants have been using as human shields.

Eastern Ghouta has now been almost fully liberated with the exception of the town of Douma.

Recently, Moscow brokered an agreement between the militants based there and the government, enabling the former’s safe exit to Jarabulus, a militant-held town in northern Syria.

A picture taken on April 2, 2018 shows a bus moving out of the town of Douma in Damascus’ countryside of Eastern Ghouta following a Russia-brokered deal between militants and the government. (Photo by AFP)

The Russian ministry said 1,123 militants and their families had left Douma in the past 24 hours on the back of the deal.

It said that 2,269 militants and their families had left Douma since the introduction of the deal.

On Monday, Syrian paper al-Watan said it was a matter of hours before Douma is declared a “town empty of terrorism.”

Moscow has been demanding that foreign governments stop funneling arms and money to the militants and instead join efforts aimed at ending the foreign-backed militancy in Syria which began in 2011.

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