Russia and Jaysh al-Islam are currently negotiating an evacuation agreement that will allow the armed group to withdraw from its last stronghold in the Eastern Ghouta region, the district of Duma, towards the Eastern Qalamun region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on March 25.
The upcoming agreement will force all militants to leave Duma and units of the Russian Military Police will be deployed to secure the civilians who will stay there. The Damascus government will also re-establish its institutions inside the district once the agreement is implemented.
Under the same agreement, Jaysh al-Islam will release thousands of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers and civilians who have been captured by the armed group over the last seven years, according to the SOHR. A previous report suggested that Jaysh al-Islam will be releasing more than 3,500 thousand captives.
Jaysh al-Islam leader Essam al-Buwaydhani had vowed to stay in the Eastern Ghouta and to fight the SAA in a video that was leaked on March 24. However, most local observers viewed the video as a propaganda stunt.
The Eastern Qalamun region is under the control of Jaysh al-Islam and other US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups. This explains why Jaysh al-Islam prefers Eastern Qalamun over Idlib, which is de-facto the stronghold of its two main enemies, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement.
Some Syrian pro-government activists believe that the SAA and its allies will launch a military operation to secure the Eastern Qalamun region after clearing the Eastern Ghouta region, even if Jaysh al-Islam fighters withdraw to there.
However, currently, the Yarmouk Refugee Camp area controlled by ISIS in southern Damascus poses a much bigger security threat to government forces.