Russia expects to strike a deal with last Syrian armed opposition in Eastern Ghouta
Russia’s military said Monday it expects to reach an agreement with a major Syrian rebel group to arrange its exit from the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta in another key victory for President Bashar Assad’s forces as they push to gain control of the region on the edge of Damascus, The Washington Post reported.The Washington Post added that Douma is the only town on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital still held by rebels, after government forces captured all other opposition areas they had besieged for years.
The town, controlled by the powerful Army of Islam, is also home to tens of thousands of people, including many who were displaced over the past weeks of heavy fighting, according to The Washington Post.
The Washington Post also said that Lt. Gen. Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov told Russian news agencies on Monday in Syria that Russia’s military is in talks with the Army of Islam to discuss its withdrawal from Douma.
Gadzhimagomedov, who is the deputy head of the Chief Operational Department at the Russian General Staff, said he expects Russian troops to “take them out soon,” and that the rebels have reportedly indicated their willingness to lay down arms, The Washington Post reported.
However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there are divisions within the rebel group over the negotiations, with some hard-liners refusing any talks with Russians. The Observatory said some fighters asked to be allowed to go to the southern province of Daraa, but that the Russians rejected this request, according to The Washington Post.