Jaish al-Islam deny rumours of planned Ghouta 'evacuation'

Jaish al-Islam deny rumours of planned Ghouta 'evacuation'
Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam have denied reports that they plan to leave the besieged opposition region of Eastern Ghouta, saying negotiations on their departure are still ongoing.
2 min read
27 March, 2018
Jaish al-Islam have denied they are leaving Douma [AFP]

Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam have denied reports of a planned departure from the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, after other opposition fighters were forced to evacuate the area.

Jaish al-Islam spokesperson Hamza Berkdar told Qasioun news agency that reports of the group's imminent withdrawal from the Damascus suburbs were false.

"This is what we deny, but negotiations are still running without reaching a final agreement until this moment," Berkdar said.

He added that displacement from Eastern Ghouta would be "disastrous".

Berkdar added that there had been negotiations with Russia, but said the talks were "very difficult".

Jaish al-Islam are the last major rebel group in Eastern Ghouta, a once stronghold of opposition forces in Syria.

They control Douma, a major city in the Damascus countryside area.

Berkdar's comments follow comments by the Russian military in Syria that Jaish al-Islam were ready to lay down their arms and leave the Eastern Ghouta region.

There has been talk that Jaish al-Islam fighters could move to Qalamoun, north-east of Damascus.

The Syrian regime have captured more than 90 percent of the Eastern Ghouta region from the rebels, following a huge offensive that killed at least 1,500 civilians in a month of heavy bombing and shelling.

Many rebel groups such as Faylaq al-Sham have agreed to leave Eastern Ghouta, with convoys emptying the former opposition stronghold.