The Damascus government and the US-backed al-Qaryatayn Martyrs Brigade have reached an evacuation agreement, under which the group’s fighters and around 5,000 civilians will be allowed to withdraw from the Rukban refugee camp, south of the border area of al-Tanaf, to the Euphrates Shield-held area in the northern Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on September 16.
According to the UK-based monitoring group, the agreement, which will be supervised by Russia, was reached after the mediation of a former commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the region of Eastern Qalamun. The evacuation process is expected to begin in the upcoming few days.
The al-Qaryatayn Martyrs Brigade, which was trained and equipped by the U.S., participated in major attack on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Damascus desert last year. However, the group failed to make any gains or even to stop the SAA advance. After that, the U.S. suspended its support and left the group in the al-Rukban camp with no resources what so ever.
In the last year, many individuals left the 55km de-escalation zone around al-Tanaf under agreements with the Syrian intelligence. However, this is the first time an entire FSA group and thousands of civilians accept an evacuation agreement. This will likely increase the pressure on the US-led coalition, which is determined to keep the border area under its control.