Syria FM: Jihadis must be purged from safe zones

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promoted the use of such evacuations, along with what his government calls "reconciliation" deals for rebel-held areas that surrender to the government, as a way of reducing bloodshed.

The deal follows Saturday's start of a "de-escalation" process put in place by government allies Russian Federation and Iran and rebel-backer Turkey in four regions of Syria - but not the capital itself.

Syria's foreign minister says there will be no global forces under United Nations supervision as part of a deal struck by Russia, Iran and Turkey last week on setting up four safe zones in Syria.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said some 500 fighters will head to Idlib, while dozens of other Barzeh residents plan to stay, apparently benefiting from an amnesty offered to opposition fighters who chose to return to normal civilian lives.

As a part of the implementation of an agreement to put an end to all armed manifestations in Syria, more than a thousand of militants left the Barzeh district in the Syrian capital of Damascus, Syrian media reported, citing Damascus governor Bishr Sabban.

The evacuees will head toward the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwestern Syria and the town of Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo province.

The deal was struck late Sunday night, and dozens of people gathered in Barzeh from Monday morning.

An AFP photographer saw opposition fighters carrying light weapons looking on as children and women in brightly-colored headscarves pulled shabby suitcases and duffel bags.

Speaking at a televised news conference, he also said that rebels involved in the process must help to clear areas they control of extremist factions, including the group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

- "Revolution capital" Homs -Syria's third city Homs was dubbed the "capital of the revolution", after anti-government protests erupted in March 2011.

But the opposition says it has been forced into them by heavy government bombardment and siege tactics.

"De-escalation zones" set up in a deal between Russia, Turkey and Iran in mostly opposition-held parts of Syria have gone into effect.

Syria planned to abide by the agreement signed in Kazakhstan last week, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters in the Syrian capital, but he cautioned it was "premature" to say whether the deal would succeed.

Many of those who have left other besieged areas of Syria have also relocated to Idlib, a mostly rural province abutting the Turkish border which is a major rebel stronghold.

"We do not accept a role for the United Nations or worldwide forces to monitor the agreement", he said.

The agreement has been received with caution by Washington, with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis saying it was being studied. "The devil is always in the details, so we are going to have to look at the details", he said.

  • Leroy Wright