Buses carrying Jaysh al-Islam fighters and their families from their former rebel bastion of Douma, arrive at the Abu al-Zindeen checkpoint controlled by Turkish-backed rebel fighters near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, on April 10, 2018. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Following the deployment of Russian military police to Douma thousands opposed to the Baathist regime of Bashar al-Assad have left the last rebel-held bastion in the capital.
"Under the auspices of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation and the Syria Arab Army, 41,312 people, including 3,354 insurgents and 8,642 their family members have left Douma," read a Russian Ministry of Defense statement from Wednesday.
The flag of the Assad regime government was raised over Douma, the Russian military also announced on Thursday.
Described as the last pocket of Syrian rebels near the capital of Damascus, some 165,123 people (including 20,398 "insurgents" and their family members) have left the area of Eastern Ghouta, Russia says.
Syria's state-run SANA news agency reported more the same number militants and their families left the Ghouta area and went to Jarabulus in Aleppo governorate under the protection of the Syrian Arab Army and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
The rebels were allowed to enter the nearby northern Aleppo town of al-Bab on Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Jarabulus and al-Bab were controlled by Turkey and its proxy fighters in 2017. Turkish authorities had to give the rebels permission to enter al-Bab, according to the Observatory.
Meanwhile, some Jaysh al-Islam rebel fighters and their families have rejected the agreement, according to the Observatory. The UK-based monitoring group also reported that Palestinian Liwa al-Quds forces have moved fighters from Aleppo to Ghouta and southern Damascus to act as regime reinforcements.
The United States and other Western allies have alleged that a chemical weapons attack targeted Douma on Saturday night.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will go to Douma to investigate the deaths of at least 50 people who were reportedly killed in the chlorine gas attack. Russia supports the OPCW investigation, while the United States and allies support an independent investigatory team.
The UN Security Council is again set to meet on Thursday, as Washington has warned Moscow to "get ready" for a military response in Syria against the Russian-backed "gas killing animal" Assad's regime.
The Syrian conflict has dragged on for seven years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Half of all Syrians have been displaced at one time or another since 2011. The United Nations and other organizations have warned of forced displacement.
Last updated at 10:59 a.m.