Syrian army, rebel groups reach evacuation agreement

Syrian soldiers patrol in al-Joura neighborhood after it was recaptured from Islamic State militants. The Syrian army reached a deal with opposition fighters to evacuate the areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem, near the site of a government offensive against militants, south of Damascus on Sunday. Photo by Youssef Badwai/EPA

April 29 (UPI) — The Syrian government and rebels reached an agreement to evacuate opposition fighters from an area near southern Damascus, state media said Sunday.

The agreement gives fighters and their families the choice to evacuate the areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem, near the site of a government offensive against militants, or hand over their weapons and remain, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.

As part of the deal state establishments will return to the area to provide services to citizens after the evacuation.

The deal comes after the Syrian army regained control over the neighborhoods of al-Mazniyeh, al-Qadam, al-Asali and al-Joura.

Syrian government forces also continued to launch air strikes on Islamic State controlled portions of the city of al-Hajar al-Aswad, one of the neighbourhoods of the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

Activists in the area told Al Jazeera at least 18 civilians have been killed since the campaign began April 19.

At least 85 regime members and 74 members of the Islamic State have been killed in nine days of fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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