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500 people evacuate Damascus' neighborhood
About 500 people including 180 rebels started evacuating the eastern Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus on Sunday, a day after the army wrested control over that key neighborhood, local media reported.
The Sunday evacuees are the first batch of rebels and their families leaving Qaboun toward the northwestern province of Idlib and the northern city of Jarablus, a day after they surrendered to the army in exchange for granting them access to the rebel-held province.
The operation is ongoing, a military source told Xinhua.
A day earlier, Syrian army captured Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus after losing it to the rebels in 2012, a military source told Xinhua.
The victory came four months after a military campaign by the Syrian army, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Qaboun is extremely strategic for the Syrian army as it's located on the road connecting Damascus with the central province of Homs and other key provinces in northern Syria.
The neighborhood, also one of the entrances of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, has several big tunnels the rebels used to smuggle their weaponry and fighters to different parts of Ghouta.
Qaboun was also the launching pad of attacks on Damascus, with the largest and most vicious one happening in March.
In 2014, a truce was reached in Qaboun but quickly fell apart.
The source said the rebels in Qaboun surrendered and will be evacuated to the northwestern province of Idlib and the city of Jarablus, both rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
The capture of Qaboun came a day after the rebels in the nearby neighborhoods of Barzeh and Tishreen evacuated.
With the three neighborhoods returning to the government, the remaining areas are part of the "de-escalation zones" deal, which means that there will be no further attacks on the capital from that area.
[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 14May17]
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