DAMASCUS (AFP) – The largest convoy yet of evacuated Syrian rebel fighters and civilians began leaving a devastated pocket of Eastern Ghouta overnight, state media said on Tuesday.
One hundred buses carrying 6,749 people — around a quarter of them fighters — left a part of the enclave controlled by the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel faction, the SANA state news agency said.
The departure was part of a deal reached last week between the militant group and Russia, which is helping its Syrian ally negotiate such deals to clear the last rebels out of Ghouta.
Russian-backed Syrian troops and allied militia have waged a brutal offensive since February 18 in which they have recaptured more than 90 percent of Ghouta, a onetime rebel bastion on the edge of Damascus.
Moscow has negotiated two evacuation deals so far for Ghouta.
One, implemented last week, saw hardline Islamist rebels from Ahrar al-Sham leave the battered town of Harasta in the west of the enclave.
The agreement with Faylaq al-Rahman was announced on Friday and its implementation started the following morning.
Nearly 1,000 people — including rebels, their relatives and other civilians — were evacuated on Saturday, followed by 5,435 people on Sunday.
President Bashar al-Assad has used such agreements to recover swathes of territory since the uprising against him began seven years ago this month.