Syria regime detains 'thousands of East Ghouta evacuees'

Syria regime detains 'thousands of East Ghouta evacuees'
The Syrian regime has detained thousands of men fleeing from weeks of heavy bombardment in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
2 min read
26 March, 2018
More than 1,600 civilians have recently been killed in Eastern Ghouta [Getty]

The Syrian regime has detained thousands of men fleeing from weeks of heavy bombardment in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta, an opposition website has reported.

Relatives of rebel fighters and their families who fled three opposition pockets of Eastern Ghouta told opposition news website Zaman al-Wasl on Saturday that many evacuees have been detained.

Mohammed al-Basha said that evacuees have been bussed to the Adra area northeast of the capital Damascus and placed in a "mass detention camp", lacking basic amenities.

Basha, who spoke using a pseudonym for fear of retribution, said men from the town of Hammouriyah aged between 16 and 60 are being held at the al-Duwair detention centre.

Hossam al-Masri, a relative of a detainee at Duwair, said women and children have been allowed to leave the centre and that authorities have imposed strict restrictions on visiting the prisoners.

Five weeks since regime troops launched a ferocious offensive on Ghouta - killing over 1,500 people - they hold more than 90 percent of the long-besieged opposition stronghold on the doorsteps of Damascus.

The area has been ravaged by heavy bombardment and emptied by a mass exodus of tens of thousands of residents and negotiated withdrawals of rebel fighters.

Late Sunday, more than 5,400 rebels, their relatives and other civilians were bussed out of a pocket of territory held by Islamist rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, state media reported.

It was the single largest one-day evacuation yet from Eastern Ghouta, after nearly 1,000 people were bussed out from the same areas on Saturday.

More pull-outs were expected on Monday from the towns of Arbin and Zamalka and the neighbouring district of Jobar, all held by Faylaq al-Rahman.

On 18 February, the regime, its ally Russia and allied militias launched an all-out assault on the opposition territories, using air strikes and a sweeping ground assaults to corner rebels in three isolated areas.

More than 1,600 civilians have been killed in the operation, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Eastern Ghouta lies close to Damascus, and rebels there had threatened to seize the capital from President Bashar al-Assad.

The regime responded by imposing a crippling half-decade siege on the suburb's 400,000 residents, sealing off their access to food, medicine and other goods.

The regime has repeatedly used such "reconciliation deals" to recapture territory lost to rebels during Syria's seven-year war.