UN Seeks Access to Douma in Eastern Ghouta, People 'on Their Knees'

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A Syrian soldier stands at one of the underground tunnels under the recently-captured Jobar town in the Eastern Ghouta, in the countryside of Damascus, Syria. It represents the final chapter of the government's relentless offensive to fully retake the area after seven years of revolt.

A state television correspondent reported that the "implementation phase of removing" Jaysh al-Islam from Douma began on Monday.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Beirut says one suggestion is that the rebels may lay down their arms and in return become part of a security force recognised by the Syrian government. Russian Federation is a key backer of the Syrian government.

Buses entered the enclave on Tuesday to prepare for a second day of evacuations, a military source and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

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The deal struck between the Army of Islam and the Russian military marks the end of a weekslong push by the Syrian government to consolidate its control of the suburbs.

A total of 40,000 civilians have returned home in the Syrian capital Damascus' Eastern Ghouta, where the army almost gained full control, the state news agency SANA reported Tuesday.

State media has said the rebels are due to go to areas near the Turkish-Syrian border that are controlled by opposition groups.

Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

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A rebel faction trapped by Syrian government forces outside the capital agreed to evacuate to northern Syria on Sunday as talks continued over lifting the siege against the town of Douma, where tens of thousands of civilians await relief. More than 120,000 others have fled their homes and sought safety with the government, according to Russia's military operation in Syria.

Fighters from the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta leave for Idlib province after weeks of uncertainty.

The defence ministry said earlier on Wednesday that more than 3,000 rebels and their family members have evacuated Douma since Sunday. Meanwhile, jihadist groups, rebels and their families relocated out of the Eastern Ghouta area and into other rebel-held areas.

They were now negotiating with the armed group inside Douma, the last remaining area under armed opposition control, adviser Jan Egeland said, adding that the United Nations was playing no direct role.

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Turkey, with support from rebels, is running its own military operations against a USA -backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which controls territory along the frontier.

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