Al-Nusra fighters to be evicted from Damascus suburb as per deal with Syrian regime

Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra

An agreement has been reached to evacuate fighters from the hardline group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra from Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, to rebel-held Idlib province, Al-Jazeera reported.

The agreement is the second phase of an earlier deal to evacuate people from two towns besieged by rebels, and two towns besieged by pro-government forces, the first phase of which was implemented last month, Al-Jazeera added.

“Activists in the area told us that green buses arrived to Yarmouk and left carrying dozens of Nusra Front fighters along with their families,” said Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Gaziantep along the Turkey-Syria border, Al-Jazeera indicated.

“The operation will continue for some days, and then the Syrian army is expected to take over the part of the camp that was under the control of al-Nusra.”

Most of the nearly 50 fighters were wounded, according to the Beirut-based Hezbollah-affiliated television channel al-Manar, Al-Jazeera explained, adding that Hezbollah, also from Lebanon, is a close military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Jazeera also said that Jabhat al-Nusra was the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria until a year ago when it broke formal allegiance and renamed itself. It has since joined a number of hardline groups under the new name Tahrir al-Sham. Both Jabhat al-Nusra and later Tahrir al-Sham have at times fought alongside other rebels, including those that operate under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, against the government and at times have clashed with them.

Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, is the location of a large Palestinian refugee camp. Parts of the area are held by the government, parts by rebels including Tahrir al-Sham, and parts by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) Al-Jazeera indicated.

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