Rebel Army of Islam Flees Syrian Territory, Government Troops Move In

Russian airstrikes kill 14 civilians in Idlib Syria

In addition to the years-long siege of eastern Ghouta, pro-government forces have carried out a six-week offensive to reclaim the area that has killed as many as 1,600 civilians.

Hundreds of militants from the so-called Jaish al-Islam terror group have begun evacuation from their last holdout in the Eastern Ghouta enclave on the outskirts of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, a day after they reached a deal with the Syrian government troops under Russia's mediation. By midday, only a handful had left for the north in three buses.

Four major rebel groups were now positioned inside Eastern Ghouta, namely the Islam Army, Failaq al-Rahman, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Levant Liberation Committee, known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Division within ranks of fighters?

"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 town of Douma has come closer to joining other villages and areas of [eastern] Ghouta taken back by the army", it said.

Russia, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, was behind the main battle plan, directing elite forces and militias on the ground and calling in air strikes from Syrian and Russian warplanes, two Western intelligence sources based in the region told Reuters this week.

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SOHR, on Monday, reported divisions within the ranks of Jaish al Islam, which has previously said it would not leave Douma.

Jaish al Islam did not confirm the report; Saudi news broadcaster Al Arabiya said that a hard-line faction within the rebel group had rejected all negotiations and was insisting on fighting "to the end".

"We will stay in this town and will not leave".

Jaish al-Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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 global condemnation.

The American service member killed this week by a roadside bomb in northern Syria was a 36-year-old Army soldier from Texas, the Defense Department said Saturday. Thousands of rebels, their families and other civilians have already departed other parts of eastern Ghouta for Idlib province, another insurgent-held area of northern Syria.

The UN has estimated the material cost of the war damage at close to $250 billion.

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