The Latest: Syrian rebels to release 3,500 people in Ghouta
BEIRUT -- The Latest on conflict in Syria (all times local):
Syria's state media is reporting that rebels in the Damascus suburb of Douma will release 3,500 people they are holding in return for allowing 3,000 "humanitarian cases" to be evacuated from the area.
The government-controlled Central Military Media said Friday that the deal is part of an agreement between the government and rebels in Douma in eastern Ghouta.
Douma is controlled by the powerful Army of Islam group that is known to be holding hundreds of army prisoners and government supporters.
The SCMM also reported that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Syrian government and the armed groups in the eastern Ghouta's towns of Arbeen, Zamalka, Hazeh and Jobar in which rebels in the area will head to the northwestern province of Idlib.
Syrian state TV and an opposition monitoring group are reporting that the second largest rebel group in eastern Ghouta has agreed to evacuate the area.
A Syrian State TV correspondent says 7,000 civilians and Failaq al-Rahman fighters will begin leaving four towns in eastern Ghouta as of Saturday.
Rabieh Dibeh, correspondent for state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV, said the towns that are to be evacuated are Zamalka, Arbeen, Ein Tarma and Jobar.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it is not clear whether Failaq al-Rahman members will head to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib or to northern regions controlled by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters.
Friday's announcement came hours after a cease-fire called for by Failaq al-Rahman in areas it controls went into effect.
Syrian state-run TV is broadcasting images of hundreds of Syrians streaming out of a besieged town in eastern Ghouta, heading to safety in the nearby capital, Damascus.
Al-Ikhbariya TV on Friday showed hundreds of men, women and children heading out on foot from the Wafideen crossing that links the rebel-controlled town of Douma to Damascus. Syrian State news agency SANA says over 4,000 left on Friday.
The state media say more than 6,000 left the day before.
Syrian rescuer workers, the White Helmets, said Douma had come under intense airstrikes, counting at least 30 since late Thursday. Activists claimed incendiary bombs were used, as videos showed dark skies light up with white smoke and multiple fires raging on the ground.
Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition fighters have captured four villages south of the town of Afrin in an enclave where Ankara s carrying out a military offensive to rout a Syrian Kurdish militia.
The advance brings Turkish forces closer to areas in northern Syria where Syrian government troops are deployed.
Anadolu Agency said the Turkish and Turkish-backed forces cleared the villages of Baay, Kafer Nabu, Bashufah and Burj Haydar on Thursday as they push toward the southeast of the enclave that is also known as Afrin.
Turkey launched an operation to clear the enclave of Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers to be a security threat, on Jan. 20. It captured the town of Afrin in a major phase of the offensive last Sunday.
Syrian rescuers and a war monitoring group say 37 people were killed in airstrikes in a town in the eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, just hours before a cease-fire went into effect after midnight.
The rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, one of at least three operating in the sprawling region, says intense government attacks targeted the area it controls on Thursday.
Rescuers, known as White Helmets, say the casualties were from an airstrike that hit an underground shelter in the town of Arbeen.
Rebel spokesman Wael Oweilan said Friday negotiations with Russia will follow to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the area.
A similar deal with another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, led to the evacuation of hundreds of fighters and civilians from Harasta, an eastern Ghouta town.