Thousands of Ghouta residents flee siege to regime territory
January 19, 2015
FLIGHT OF THE CONQUERED: Thousands of civilians reportedly seeking to escape a third year of regime encirclement of their towns streamed from opposition-controlled areas in East Ghouta to regime territory in and around the capital over the weekend.
“Since Thursday, families have been leaving from different parts of Ghouta, especially residents from al-Ahwash,” a media activist in East Ghouta, who asked to remain anonymous, told Syria Direct on Monday.
Al-Ahwash, located just east of Douma, the de facto opposition capital in East Ghouta, is an area consisting of a number of largely ignored rural towns. The civilians from the towns are largely seen as harmless and not closely tied to rebel groups.
The mass exit comes in the wake of Jaish al-Islam’s–the dominate rebel group in East Ghouta–unilateral campaign against its main rival in Douma, Jaish al-Umma, effectively taking control of the city militarily.
It was not immediately clear why some people were allowed to leave Al-Ahwash, although the opposition media abounded with theories of a back-door deal with the regime.
In order to reach regime-controlled areas, civilians traveled farther east by bus to the regime military base Brigade 139, where Syrian soldiers assist their transfer to other towns.
Official state news SANA celebrated the humanitarian success of the endeavor.
“For the fourth day, members of the army and armed forces secured the exit of more than 2,100 citizens fleeing a number of East Ghouta areas to escape from the terrorists and criminal apostate organizations that surround families and rob them of their livelihood,” SANA said on Sunday.
Most of internally displaced people came from rebel-dominated areas such as Jober and Douma, according to SANA, where it says the opposition infighting caused many to abandon the area.
“I escaped from death,” a former fighter of Jaish al-Umma told the pro-regime news outlet Al-Mayadeen on Monday.
“Soldiers from Jaish al-Islam decided to dispose of us. Our former leaders were killed and arrested. I escaped to the army checkpoints and today the army welcomed me here to a better future.”