Syrian militants start leaving Damascus district

A Syrian government forces Mi G-23 fighter-bomber drops a payload during a reported air strike in the rebel-held area of Qabun east of the capital Damascus

Syrian rebels, families start leaving Damascus neighborhood

Earlier in the day, a source in the Syrian security forces told Sputnik that the total number of the people set to leave the district in several groups should reach 8,000 under the deal between the country's government and a number of armed militant groups.

The latest evacuation deal was part of Assad's efforts to reconcile and relocate fighters and civilians in pro-opposition areas and came days after a memorandum was signed by his global allies, Russian Federation and Iran, and Turkey, which supports rebels, to create four de-escalation zones across the country for those fleeing the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday that reconciliation efforts in Barzeh, Qaboun and nearby Yarmouk Camp, a majority-Palestinian refugee district in which the Syrian military, jihadi groups, ISIS and various militias have battled for control, showed that factions were serious in their resolve to end the war.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hundreds are expected to leave Barzeh to head to the country's north.

However, the evacuation of some 1,500 people from the north-eastern Barzeh neighbourhood in Damascus is the first in this area.

The rebels' evacuation from Barzeh is the latest in a string of rebel departures from the vicinity of the capital toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

Those two towns were part of a mutual evacuation deal that also included two towns besieged by government forces and involved exchanging thousands of people between the warring sides last month.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said some 500 fighters will head to Idlib, while dozens of other Barzeh residents plan to stay, apparently benefiting from an amnesty offered to opposition fighters who chose to return to normal civilian lives.

Qabun has seen fierce fighting for weeks as President Bashar al-Assad s forces advance on rebels.

But the opposition says it is forced into them by heavy government bombardment and siege tactics.

Over the past six years, Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy.

The largest de-escalation zone includes Idlib, as well as adjoining areas of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces.

The memorandum also calls on all parties to fight jihadists from so-called Islamic State and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda-linked alliance once known as al-Nusra Front.

As for the Russia-Iran-Turkey ceasefire deal, there are still questions about how it will be enforced.

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