More than 105000 civilians have 'fled Eastern Ghouta' amid Assad regime's 'apocalypse'

The children who were among 20 people killed in the attack on Kfar Batkeeh village were aged between seven and ten. They were put into the back of a truck by grieving family after the shocking killings

Russian air strikes killed 37 civilians in the Arbin area of the shrinking rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

This comes after the second-largest rebel group in Syria's Eastern Ghouta declared a ceasefire in order to negotiate leaving the opposition enclave, as rebels and their families begin to leave the area.

Capturing eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, would be Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's biggest victory over the rebels since driving them from Aleppo in December 2016. State media said more than 6,000 left the day before.

It was remarkable that the deal struck between a representative of the Russian Defense Minister and Faylaq al-Rahman, which controls Jawbar, Ain Tarma, Abrin and Zamalka in Ghouta's south, stipulated the deployment of the Russian Army in areas already emptied by opposition fighters.

Some have moved deeper into the rebel-held enclave, while 105,000 others have crossed the front lines toward government-controlled areas or left to rebel-held parts in northern Syria, according to state news agency SANA.

The evacuation deal was brokered by Russian Federation and worked out between Syrian rebels and the government.

"We unfortunately have a steady stream of reports coming out of Eastern Ghouta: of attacks of bombardments, all kinds of illegal weapons being used." said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during a news conference in Geneva.

The first batch of fighters to leave Ghouta arrived at a camp in Idlib province on Friday after spending the night on the edge of rebel-held territory.

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Each one of the three pockets has come under intense bombardment, essentially forcing the rebels that control them to sue for an evacuation.

Following the evacuation of the last group of armed men, the SOHR added that Ahrar al-Sham's combatants were no longer present in Eastern Ghouta. "We couldn't even find fodder to eat", he said.

The operation split the region into three nonadjacent, rebel-held pockets, which are now down to two with the evacuation of Harasta.

Retaking Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semi-rural area which had escaped government control since 2012 and lies within mortar range of central Damascus, was made a priority by the regime this year.

The Observatory says that more than 1,600 civilians have been killed in just over a month.

The evacuation will take place on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) after the rebels hand over maps of the tunnels they dug and mines they planted in the aforementioned areas.

"The Syrian government lays siege to an area, bombs it into submission, starves the people and gives them the choice to leave, starve or die", she said.

The government's crushing offensive killed almost 1,500 people and wounded more than 5,000, according to opposition activists.


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