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Russian Report Says Deal in Place for Syrian Rebels to Leave Ghouta


A man walks with his bicycle at a damaged site in the besieged town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2018.

Russia's military says there is a preliminary deal for Syrian rebel fighters to pull out of the last remaining area of eastern Ghouta still under their hand.

This would put the Syrian government back in full control of the Damascus suburb after a six-week military operation that has killed as many as 1,600 civilians.

The rebels have not yet confirmed the Russian report and there is no word from the Russian side when the evacuation would start.

The Syrian ground and air assault on Ghouta has driven thousands from their homes. Those who would not or could not leave have faced severe food shortages and scant medical care.

Deals to evacuate other parts of the suburb sent thousands of civilians and rebel fighters to the rebel-held province of Idlib.

State-run Syrian media says busloads of rebels and their families began leaving the Syrian town of Douma Sunday, northeast of Damascus, apparently on their way to Idlib.

A Syrian operation to take back Douma has also left the town in ruins.

Douma was one of the Syrian cities that gave birth to the anti-Assad protests in 2011. The protests grew into the current civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, devastated Syrian cities, and helped stoke Cold War-style tension between the United States and pro-Syria Russia.

Pope Francis used part of his Easter message Sunday to again call for the end of what he calls the "carnage" in Syria.

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