On December 17, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrain branch of al-Qaeda) began tis final preparations for an expected withdrawal from the Eastern Ghouta region to the governotare of Idlib, according to Syrian oppositions sources. The HTS withdrawal is part of a secret deal reached by the Damascus government, Russia, Jaysh al-Islam, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and Faylaq al-Rahman.
The opposition sources reported that several buses arrived the al-Wafddien camp east of Damascus to transport HTS fighters to Idlib governorate. Moreover, HTS began registering the names of its fighters that will withdraw to Idlib, according to the sources.
From its side, Abu Mohammad al-Shami a commander of HTS denied that HTS will withdraw from Eastern Ghouta, according to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi. Al-Shami even claimed in a voice-message obtained by Enab Baladi that HTS is preparing for a military operation to break the SAA siege on the region.
However, many Syrian oppositions activists said that the al-Shami statement was nothing more than a propaganda stunt. Such moves have been used many times by HTS to justify its defeats.
Experts believe that expelling HTS from Eastern Ghouta will stabilize the situation in it and to secure the de-escalation agreement there. However, with HTS refusing to recognize the deal publicly, there is a good chance that it will fail.