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Syria announces Yarmouk camp evacuation agreement

Evacuation part of wider agreement between Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham and government for surrender of military hardware.

The Syrian government has reached an evacuation deal with fighters from Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to leave the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus.

The official SANA news agency announced on Monday that the fighters and their families, numbering about 5,000, would be evacuated in two stages, the first of which would see 1,500 people transported to the rebel-controlled Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The deal is part of a wider agreement between HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and President Bashar al-Assad's government to surrender heavy and medium military hardware.

SANA reported that these included 85 prisoners, "mostly women, children and elderly", from the rebel-controlled town of Eshtabraq.

Buses to transport the rebels and their relatives have already begun gathering around Yarmouk near midnight, local news media reported.

Nevertheless, this falls short of securing the entirety of southern Damascus, with a few pockets of territory still under control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

Government forces have been involved in a two-week-long offensive to recapture the territory, but ISIL units have put up fierce resistance in areas where heavy weapons have proven to be of limited use.


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