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April 25, 2018 10:14 am

Enclave Northeast of Damascus Said to Be Free of Rebels

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Syrian Army soldiers stand near weapons that belonged to rebels from Eastern Qalamoun, after they handed them over, at the town of Dumayr, Damascus, Syria, April 22, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Omar Sanadiki.

A media unit run by the Syrian government’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah said on Wednesday an opposition enclave northeast of Damascus was now free of rebels and under state control.

Under a deal between the Syrian government and rebels reached on Friday, about 3,700 rebels and family members left the East Qalamoun enclave some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Damascus in recent days.

The final 38 buses left at dawn on Wednesday, the media unit said. Their destination was the rebel-held areas of Idlib and Jarablus in northern Syria, Syrian state television said.

Only one pocket of rebel-held territory remains near the Syrian capital, an area south of the city where Islamic State holds a pocket next to one held by rebel factions.

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Pro-government forces are bombarding the enclave, which includes the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, Hajar al-Aswad district and neighboring areas.

In a sign of the state’s control of the Qalamoun area, Syrian security forces began deploying in several villages there on Wednesday.

State television showed footage of convoys of police cars and motorcycles entering the village of Ruhaiba, with dozens of civilians gathering and cheering in the streets.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has sought to wipe out the last few rebel enclaves near Damascus. In early April Assad took control of the largest rebel-held area near Damascus, eastern Ghouta.

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