Buses and ambulances are stationed in the town of Saassaa, Syria, to transport the rebels and their families, on Dec. 29, 2017. Hundreds of rebels and their families started evacuating their last strongholds in the southwestern countryside of Damascus on Friday to rebel-held areas in northern and southern Syria, local sources said. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of rebels and their families started evacuating their last strongholds in the southwestern countryside of Damascus on Friday to rebel-held areas in northern and southern Syria, local sources said.
Buses were stationed in the town of Saassaa to transport the rebels and their families from the towns of Beit Jin, Tal Marwan and Mughor al-Mir toward the northwestern province of Idlib and the southern province of Daraa, the sources, who asked not to be named, told Xinhua at the site.
The three towns were the last strongholds of rebels, largely those affiliated with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, in the Western Ghouta countryside of Damascus.
Meanwhile, ambulances of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent also stood by to evacuate those suffering from medical conditions.
Four buses left Friday afternoon toward Idlib, while the rest still stood by after delays due to logistical issues.
When the evacuation ends, possibly late Friday or early Saturday, the entire western countryside of Damascus will be liberated from rebels, as the Syrian army has already captured all the towns on the western flank of Damascus.
The Syrian army halted its military operations in the area after rebels agreed to surrender in exchange for their transfer out of Western Ghouta as their positions had been besieged by the Syrian army.
The three towns 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 towns 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.