Syria Ghouta rebels offered choice: 'surrender or more bombing'

Syria Ghouta rebels offered choice: 'surrender or more bombing'
Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam have been offered a choice by the Syrian regime of surrendering or face a new bombardment of their Eastern Ghouta enclave.
2 min read
27 March, 2018
Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, risks a new bombardment from Syrian regime forces [AFP]

Syria's regime and its ally Russia have demanded that rebel group Jaish al-Islam hand over the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, or face a new bombardment on the opposition enclave.

Jaish al-Islam held talks recently with Moscow hoping they might be able to stay in Douma, rather than face the fate of other rebel groups who have been bused out of Eastern Ghouta along with civilians. 

Russia, however, demanded a full withdrawal from Douma, opposition sources told AFP or face a new assault on their enclave.

"At the end of their meeting Monday, the Russians gave Jaish al-Islam two choices: surrender or face an attack," a source told AFP.

Russia gave the group a few days to decide before a military assault will be launched on the city, they said.  

The source said Moscow urged them to follow the example of Faylaq al-Rahman and withdraw from Eastern Ghouta, following immense military pressure.

More than 17,000 people have taken part in the so-called evacuation deals and been bused out of areas controlled by Faylaq al-Sham to opposition areas in the north of Syria.

Jaish al-Islam had hoped to strike a deal that would see the government-provided water and electricity returning to the town in exchange for the group handing over their heavy weaponry.

Douma had been relatively calm as negotiations were underway, without the heavy bombing raining on other towns in Eastern Ghouta. 

Moscow said it is unwilling to accept a special exception for Douma. 

"The Russians don't want an agreement for Douma that's different from other parts of Ghouta, but Jaish al-Islam wants to stay and doesn't want any residents to leave," the source said.

"They gave them an ultimatum," the source said, with the group having until Wednesday or Thursday to respond. 

Al-Watan, a newspaper close to the Syrian regime, reported Tuesday that military forces were already amassing around Douma. 

"All forces involved in Eastern Ghouta are heading towards Douma ahead of a massive military operation if the terrorists of Jaish al-Islam do not agree to hand over the city and leave," the daily said, citing a military source. 

Syrian troops have already captured more than 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta after heavy bombing killed more than 1,600 civilians.