On March 9, Jaysh al-Islam announced in an official statement that it will release all Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters from its prisons and allow them to withdraw with their families to Idlib governorate, according to an agreement with the UN.
According to Jaysh al-Islam’s statement, the agreement includes only HTS fighters who were captured by Jaysh al-Islam during the inter-rebel conflict in April and May of 2017. Hundreds of HTS fighters will remain in the center and western part of East Ghouta.
Few minutes following the announcement of the agreement, thirteen HTS fighters and their families reached the safe route northeast of the East Ghouta pocket, according to Syrian pro-government sources. The fighters will be evacuated to Idlib within hours.
The agreement can’t be considered as a breakthrough as it only includes few dozens of HTS fighters. However, observers believe that more similar agreements will follow it.
The Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi already reported that local committees of Mudayrah and Hammuriyah towns are negotiating with the Syrian government to reach a similar agreement. However, the source said that the militants are not part of the negotiations.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies are expected to resume their military operation in the East Ghouta pocket soon. The operation has been halted for about 12 hours due to the bad weather and UN aid deliveries to the pocket.
HTS fighters released by Jaysh al-Islam on the safe route: