The second-largest rebel group in Syria's Ghouta province says it has agreed with the Russian military to evacuate sick and wounded people and allow humanitarian aid to enter rebel-held areas of eastern Ghouta.
The rebel group, Failaq al-Rahman, said in a statement Friday that civilians who decide to stay in eastern Ghouta will be guaranteed safety. Russian police are expected to deploy in areas controlled by Failaq al-Rahman, including the suburbs of Arbeen, Zamalka, Ein Tarma and Jobar.
The two groups have also agreed on a prisoner exchange, swapping 3,500 people held by the rebels for allowing 3,000 "humanitarian cases" to be evacuated.
Syrian Central Military Media said a tentative agreement has been reached between the Syrian government and armed groups in the Ghouta towns of Arbeen, Zamalka, Hazeh and Jobar. There, the rebels will evacuate and head for the northwestern province of Idlib.
The Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported that over 4,000 people left Ghouta on Friday. State media said more than 6,000 left the day before.
Rebel officials say they expect the evacuation to last several days.
The evacuation deal was brokered by Russia and worked out between Syrian rebels and the government. It includes a prisoner swap and is similar to other agreements that let opposition fighters and their families leave besieged areas peacefully.
Syrian forces, backed by Russia, launched air and rocket attacks and regained control of most of eastern Ghouta last month.
The operation split the region into three nonadjacent, rebel-held pockets, which are now down to two with the evacuation of Harasta.
The fighting has killed more than 1,500 people and left civilians who were unable or unwilling to leave their homes to deal with severe food shortages and scant medical care.