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Syrian army halts military operations in Western Ghouta ahead of rebels evacuation
The Syrian government forces halted military operations on the remaining rebel-held areas in the Western Ghouta region of the capital Damascus on Tuesday, as part of a deal that will see the evacuation of the ultra-radical militants toward northern Syria, a military source told Xinhua.
The areas of Mughor al-Mir, Tal Marwan and Beit Jin in the Western Ghouta region west of Damascus will see the evacuation of the ultra-radical militants of the Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), otherwise known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, as well as the Ahrar al-Sham group toward the northwestern province of Idlib, a key stronghold and gathering point of the rebels, who have been dislodged from key Syrian cities, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The evacuation is expected to start within hours, the source added.
When the evacuation is completed, the entire western countryside of Damascus will be free of rebels, and the army will then focus its military operations on the militants in the Eastern Ghouta region.
With old caves in the slopes of the al-Shiekh Mountain near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Mughor al-Mir is geographically hard to get through.
The snowfall in the area, however, has cut off all the supply routes to rebels, in part contributing their surrender to the army forces, which are on crushing offensives to clear radical groups from the western rim of Damascus.
The Mughor area was the first area the government lost in 2012 in the Western Ghouta region, and the last to return after the military forces captured all the towns in Western Ghouta earlier this year.
The three areas are strategically important because of their proximity to the Lebanese border and the borders with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, through which rebels were getting support.
These areas have also posed a threat to the capital as rebels there had waged several offensives to divert the attention of the Syrian army from other parts of the country.
The first anti-government protests erupted in Western Ghouta in April 2011. In early 2012, the area entered the phase of actual battles.
In the summer of 2012, the rebels attacked the Mughor al-Mir, and turned the town into a stronghold for the commanders and militants of the LLC.
[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 26Dec17]
War in Syria
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