United Nations seeks access to Syrians in eastern Ghouta's Douma

In a first wave of evacuations of Jaish al-Islam fighters from Douma, more than 1,100 people - rebels and family members - set off late Monday to the rebel-held town of Jarabulus in northern Syria, SANA said.

While Russian and Syrian sources confirmed a preliminary deal on Sunday, a representative of Jaish al-Islam quoted by the AP news agency said his group did not yet agree to leave the town.

The buses are now waiting on the Harasta highway nearby for the militants to settle their dispute.

Hamza Berakdar, spokesperson for Jaish al-Islam, said on Saturday that the armed opposition in Douma refused to leave in what he called a forced displacement.

The pull-outs came under a deal announced on Friday between regime backer Russian Federation and rebel group Jaish Al Islam, which controls Douma.

Fighters from the Army of Islam would evacuate to Jarablus, a town in the northern Aleppo province that is shared between rebel and Turkish control.

The Syrian army launched a massive operation in February against the rebels in Eastern Ghouta and secured the evacuation of 150,000 civilians who will return home once the situation stabilizes.

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It is also unclear whether all of the Army of Islam fighters have agreed to leave and how long the evacuations will take.

Russia-backed regime forces have retaken control of 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta since February 18 through a combination of a deadly air and ground assault and evacuation deals.

Rebel fighters had held Ghouta since 2012, and recapturing it will be seen as a victory for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

A two-year-old Syrian baby named Kasim Kahveci from Eastern Ghouta, whose face was ruined in an attack by Assad regime forces, arrived in Turkey on Wednesday to receive medical treatment, according to Turkish Red Crescent official.

Syria's army has discovered a complex network of secret tunnels in eastern Ghouta, including subterranean hospitals and strategic corridors used by rebel fighters to move weaponry and ammunitions. Thousands chose the north, taking their families with them.

The now deserted highway was pockmarked with bomb craters and wound its way through bleak, apocalyptic scenes of neighbourhoods destroyed by years of fighting in Syria's bloody civil war.

The Syrian government says it fires in response to shelling from Eastern Ghouta, but Western countries are accusing the Syrian government and Russian Federation of being responsible for the intensification of tensions in the area.

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