Syrian military media says rebels belonging to the powerful Army of Islam group have agreed to evacuate their stronghold in the suburbs of Damascus, giving the government complete control of the eastern Ghouta region which has been rebel-held since 2011.
The fighters left the town as part of an evacuation deal that will hand the town to the Syrian government, the state SANA news agency reported.
The deal to clear the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta is preparation for a full regime takeover of an area that had held out against the surrounding government forces and their allies for nearly five years, and from which the rebels have been able to shell the capital.
In addition to the years-long siege of eastern Ghouta, pro-government forces have carried out a six-week offensive to reclaim the area that has killed as many as 1,600 civilians.
Division within ranks of fighters?
A Russian-brokered agreement has been finalized to evacuate militants from Douma, the last terrorist bastion in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, a UK-based monitor sympathetic to anti-Damascus elements says.
Around this same time, Russian Federation entered the conflict to help Assad's embattled armed forces fighting alongside a number of Syrian pro-government and Iran-backed militias.
A statement said the military would press on with "fighting in the area of Douma to rid it of terrorism", in reference to the rebels.
Late on Sunday, Russian news agency Interfax quoted General Yuri Yevtushenko as saying a "preliminary deal" had been reached to evacuate Jaish Al Islam fighters.
Listing the progress of the operation in eastern Ghouta, the center says that a total of 153,240 people have left the area through humanitarian corridors, including nearly 30,000 from Douma, where a corridor is now open not only for civilians but for militants and their families as well.
The top United Nations official in Syria, Ali Al-Za'tari, told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV in an interview aired Saturday that "Idlib can not take more people".
SOHR, on Monday, reported divisions within the ranks of Jaish al Islam, which has previously said it would not leave Douma.
The deal is for humanitarian cases, Salah said, but "no one wants to leave".
"This operation was part of the Coalition's mission to defeat ISIS, and we remain focused on our mission".
Jaish al Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to SOHR.
Assad and his backers have inflicted a series of bloody defeats on rebel forces in recent years, often through campaigns of siege, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread worldwide condemnation.
An old woman dressed head-to-toe in black stood by a pile of suitcases, with a child wearing a winter coat and colourful backpack by her side.
More than 1,500 people have died from the civil war just in the last month.