On March 24, leader of Jaysh al-Islam Essam al-Buwaydhani announced in a voice message that his armed group had decided to stay and fight in its last stronghold in the Eastern Ghouta region, Duma district, according to Syrian opposition sources.
Al-Buwaydhani also called on the militants in the governorates of Idlib and Daraa to attack the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in order to support Jaysh al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta. The Jaysh al-Islam leader also warned militants that the SAA will launch attacks against them in northern and southern Syria, if it wins the ongoing battle for Eastern Ghouta.
Previously, Faylaq al-Rahman leader Captain Abdel Nasser Shamir made a similar vow to fight against the SAA “until death”. However, Shamir accepted all the conditions of the Damascus government just few days later.
In a related development, a un named Syrian security official told the Russian news agency Sputnik that Jaysh al-Islam is about to reach a reconciliation agreement that will indeed allow it to stay in Duma. According to Sputnik, the institutions of the Damascus government will be allowed to operate once again inside the Duma district under the agreement.
Many Syrian pro-government activists doubted Sputnik’s report becase allowing Jaysh al-Islam to stay in Duma district will mean that the Syrian capital of Damascus will remain under a huge security threat. Some activists said that Jaysh al-Islam is only pressuring the Damascus government because it wants to be evacuated to Daraa governorate, not to Idlib where many of its foes are stationed.
Syrian pro-government sources reported on March 23 that Jaysh al-Islam and the Damascus government had reached an agreement allowing 3,000 sick and injured civilians to leave Duma and forcing Jaysh al-Islam to release more than 3,500 captives from its prisons.
The agreement is yet to be executed, likely due to unsolved issues between the two sides. However, a Syrian military source said on March 24, that 1,700 civilians were evacuated from Duma, which could be a part of the agreement.