Home Arab world Syrian government to start negotiations with rebel group in Douma: State TV

Syrian government to start negotiations with rebel group in Douma: State TV

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad walks with Syrian army soldiers in eastern Ghouta, Syria, March 18, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

The Syrian government will start negotiations with the rebel group Jaish al-Islam later on Sunday after the group requested talks, state television reported, citing an official source.

“Jaish al-Islam terrorists have requested negotiations with the Syrian state, which will start the talks within two hours from now (local time),” the source said.

There was no immediate comment from Jaish al-Islam, which controls the last rebel-held enclave in eastern Ghouta, the town of Douma.

New strikes pound Syria’s Ghouta after alleged gas attack
Fresh air strikes hit rebel-held areas of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, a monitor said, after more than 80 people were killed in weekend raids including an alleged chemical attack denounced by the United States.

Sunday’s strikes came despite reports of a ceasefire and the potential resumption of talks between Syria’s regime and Jaish al-Islam, the last rebel faction in Ghouta.

Allegations of a chlorine gas attack on Saturday were causing widespread international concern, but Syrian state media and regime ally Russia denounced the claims as “fabrications”.

Assad’s forces renewed their assault on Douma, the last rebel-controlled town in Eastern Ghouta, on Friday after talks over an evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters broke down.

The regime has used a fierce military onslaught and two negotiated withdrawals to retake control of 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta, once the main rebel stronghold close to Damascus.

It appeared last week that Douma would follow suit, with the evacuation of hundreds of rebels and their families, but there were reports of divisions among the rebels with hardliners refusing to go.

At least 80 civilians have been killed since Friday after the regime launched fresh air raids, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.