Douma Evacuations Put on Hold as Rebels Refuse to Surrender
The evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families from the last rebel pocket in Eastern Ghouta was suspended on Thursday following disagreements within the group, Agence France-Presse reported.
The suspension comes after three consecutive days of evacuations from the town of Douma as part of an alleged agreement between Jaish al-Islam and the Damascus government. Syrian state media had said that buses entered Douma on Thursday for the fourth round of transfers but returned without passengers.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based monitor, has said that Jaish al-Islam is divided between those who want to leave and hardliners who want to stay and fight.
More than 4,000 fighters out of a total of 10,000 have reportedly refused to evacuate Eastern Ghouta, SOHR head Rami Abdulrahman told AFP, adding that rebels were trying to negotiate a new agreement with Russian forces.
U.S. May Leave Syria by Fall
President Donald Trump has informed his aides that he wants to pull United States troops out of Syria within five to six months, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
Five unidentified administration officials who were briefed on a White House meeting on Tuesday between Trump and his top aides told the AP that the president was insistent on completing the withdrawal quickly.
Trump “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer,” the AP reported.
The president was also reported to have said he wants to end all U.S. civilian stabilization programs designed to help reconstruct damaged areas in Syria.
Government Eyes Control of Southern Damascus Region
The Syrian government and its allies have called on rebel forces to leave a besieged pocket in southern Damascus or accept state rule, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday.
Damascus and Russia are currently trying to broker an evacuation agreement that would have rebels surrender Yalda, Beit Saham and Babbila in return for a safe exit to opposition-held territory in Syria’s north and an offer of reconciliation for those who want to stay.
The SOHR claims that Syrian government forces are simultaneously preparing to launch a military offensive against Islamic State militants who command a small patchwork of territory in southern parts of the capital.
- The Associated Press: As Trump Mulls a Pullout, I.S. Attempts to Re-Emerge in Syria
- The New York Times Magazine: U.S. Forces in Syria: Building More Outposts, Pulling up Lawn Chairs
- Al Jazeera: Can Russia, Iran and Turkey Agree on a Roadmap for Syria?
- Brookings: How Withdrawing From Syria Would Embolden Russia and Iran
- BBC: The People Who Want Four Things Before They Go Home