On April 19, US-backed Free Syrian Army (SAA) groups in the Eastern Qalamun region surrendered and accepted the evacuation deal that had been proposed by the Damascus government and Russia during a previous negotiation round, the Hezbollah media wing in Syria reported.
The source said that FSA fighters will be allowed to withdraw towards the the militant-held parts of the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib under the evacuation deal. The evacuation process is set to begin on April 20.
Syrian pro-government and opposition sources reported that FSA fighters had begun handing over their heavy weapons, including several battle tanks, to the SAA. Some FSA fighters even surrendered to avoid being sent to northern Syria, according to the sources.
A day earlier, the SAA and its allies launched a large-scale military operation against the FSA in the eastern Qalamun region. The quick collapse of the FSA’s defense suggests that most fighters had refused to fight the SAA, although they had been well-armed.
According to local observers, the Eastern Qalamun region is among the most strategic areas in central Syria as it overlooks the Damascus-Homs highway, the US-led coalition base in al-Tanaf and three key airbases of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF). The high mountains of Eastern Qalamun also used to host early warning radars of the Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces (SyAADF). This makes the liberation of this area an importnat step in improving the security situation in the country.