Civilians leave Daesh enclave in eastern Syria after evacuation deal
BEIRUT: Hundreds of civilians left a besieged Daesh enclave in central Syria after the Syrian government and Daesh reached an evacuation deal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.
The Syrian army could not be reached for comment on the report. An insurgent source in northwestern Syria said the civilians — mostly shepherds — from the enclave, located in Hama and Homs provinces, had arrived in rebel-held Idlib province.
The Syrian army — supported by Russian air power and Iran-backed militias — isolated the pocket, Daesh last presence in central Syria, in August during its eastward offensive against the militants.
The regime and Daesh finalised the deal on Thursday, allowing Daesh fighters, their families and civilians who wanted to leave the pocket and cross government areas into areas held by Islamist groups, the Observatory reported.
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Some crossed to areas held by Tahrir Al Sham, a militant alliance that includes the former Al Nusra Front group, in northern Hama and eastern Idlib provinces. Others moved to camps set up west of the enclave in government-held areas in accordance with tribal deals, the Britain-based monitor said.
Last week militants launched an offensive against government-held parts of northern Hama province, advancing south from rebel-held Idlib. The Syrian government has responded with strikes on rebel-held positions.
The attack came after Russia, Iran and Turkey struck a tripartite deal last week to deploy an observer force on the edge of a designated “de-escalation zone” in Idlib.
The civilians leaving Daesh-held enclave were evacuated to areas held by Islamist militants, the Observatory said.
The Syrian army’s main focus has been its offensive against Daesh in the east of the country, where Daesh is also facing an offensive by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.