Biggest convoy yet leaves rebel pocket of Syria's Ghouta: State media

A convoy transporting Syrian civilians and rebel fighters evacuated from Eastern Ghouta arrives in a government-held area at the entrance of Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus.
A convoy transporting Syrian civilians and rebel fighters evacuated from Eastern Ghouta arrives in a government-held area at the entrance of Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus.PHOTO: AFP

DAMASCUS (AFP) - The largest convoy yet of evacuated Syrian rebel fighters and civilians began leaving a devastated pocket of Eastern Ghouta overnight, state media said on Tuesday (March 27).

One hundred buses carrying 6,749 people - around a quarter of them fighters - left a part of the enclave controlled by the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel faction, the SANA state news agency said.

The departure was part of a deal reached last week between the Islamist group and Russia, which is helping its Syrian ally negotiate such deals to clear the last rebels out of Ghouta.

Russian-backed Syrian troops and allied militia have waged a brutal offensive since February 18 in which they have recaptured more than 90 per cent of Ghouta, a one-time rebel bastion on the edge of Damascus.

Moscow has negotiated two evacuation deals so far for Ghouta.

One, implemented last week, saw hardline Islamist rebels from Ahrar al-Sham leave the battered town of Harasta in the west of the enclave.

The agreement with Faylaq al-Rahman was announced on Friday and its implementation started the following morning.

Nearly 1,000 people - including rebels, their relatives and other civilians - were evacuated on Saturday, followed by 5,435 people on Sunday.

President Bashar al-Assad has used such agreements to recover swathes of territory since the uprising against him began seven years ago this month.