On April 21, the first batch of militants withdrew from the Eastern Qalamun region towards the Syrian northern city of Jarabulus under the evacuation deal that was reached on April 19, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
The news agency said that the first batch had consisted of 22 buses carrying “hundreds” of militants and members of their families. Syrian pro-government sources expect the the the evacuation process will last between two to three days only, as most of the militants had opted to stay and join the pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF).
Militants had reportedly handed over 37 tanks and more than 15 heavy rockets to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) ahead their withdrawal. More weapons, including US-supplied TOW anti-tanks guided missiles (ATGMs), will be handed over to the SAA in the upcoming hours, according to pro-government sources.
Some US-backed FSA groups, like Jaysh Tahrir al-Sham, had previously vowed to fight the SAA in the Eastern Qalamun until the end. However, the pressure from bigger groups, including Jaysh al-Islam, forced them to surrender.
As a part of the evacuation deal, the Damascus government will provide the public services for all the towns and villages of the Eastern Qalamun region, while the Russian Military Police, that was deployed in the region on April 20, will work with the Syrian Police to secure Eastern Qalamun.