Syrian government troops, supported by allied fighters from popular defense groups, have managed to establish full control over Rayhan town in the East Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
A Syrian military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’ official news agency SANA that Syrian soldiers and their allies carried out an operation against the positions of the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri militants in the town, which lies east of Douma, on Sunday, triggering a fierce exchange of gunfire with the extremists.
The source added that Syrian army troops also regained control over the main road between Ibn Sina Hospital and Douma, which serves as an important supply and movement route for militants.
Russia: Militants to be withdrawn from Douma
Meanwhile, Russia’s military said an operation would begin on Sunday to bring Jaish al-Islam militants out of their besieged enclave of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the center of Damascus.
Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian peace and reconciliation center in Syria, said the operation to take “irreconcilable militants” out of Douma would kick off any time soon.
There was no immediate comment from Jaish al-Islam though.
Syrian govt., Jaish al-Islam reach deal on Douma withdrawal
Later on Sunday, Syrian government announced that it had reached an agreement with Jaish al-Islam militants to leave their holdout of Douma for a militant-held town in the country’s north, the country’s official SANA news agency reported.
According to the agreement, militants belonging to Jaish al-Islam group will leave the city of Douma in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta suburb for the northern city of Jarablus, near the borders with Turkey, within 48 hours.
SANA added that in exchange for leaving the city, Jaish al-Islam would release hostages it had been holding.
Soon after the announcement, dozens of buses entered Douma to begin the evacuations.
According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in UK, the militant group has more than 3,500 prisoners and hostages in its prisons in Douma, Reuters reported.
It added that five prisoners were released on Wednesday, after earlier departures by Jaish al-Islam militants.
Meanwhile, Russian news agency RIA, quoted an unnamed security source as saying that Jaish al-Islam militants will leave Douma in two batches in the coming hours.
The agreement came after two days of an intense military showdown in Douma, where Jaish al-Islam militants reneged on a previous agreement for their evacuation from the area, and refused to release thousands of kidnapped people.
The militants also launched mortar attacks on several residential neighborhoods inside Damascus, which left several people killed and injured.
Eastern Ghouta, a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus which is home to some 400,000 people, has witnessed deadly violence over the past few months, with foreign-sponsored militants launching mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent humiliating defeat.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri militant groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.