Turkish intelligence agency working to evacuate radical groups in Eastern Ghouta: Sources

Turkish intelligence agency working to evacuate radical groups in Eastern Ghouta: Sources

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkish intelligence agency working to evacuate radical groups in Eastern Ghouta: Sources

The Turkish intelligence agency is undergoing efforts to remove radical groups from Eastern Ghouta through communication with moderate opposition groups in the field, in order to end the regime’s attacks on civilians in the last rebel stronghold that has been under siege by the Syrian government since 2013, according to sources.

“Turkey is carrying out work through some moderate opposition, which are also represented in the Astana process, in order to evacuate radical elements from the region that have been shown by the regime as an excuse for attacks on civilians in Eastern Ghouta,” Turkish security sources told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.

Turkey is concerned about the humanitarian emergency in East Ghouta and is trying to find a solution in a bid to prevent further civilian casualties, sources have said, noting that hundreds of civilians lost their lives and hundreds were injured during attacks last week because of the regime’s air and land elements.

Turkey will focus on the evacuation of civilians from Syria’s East Ghouta in the upcoming period and its National Intelligence Agency (MİT) is carrying out work for the removal of al-Nusra from the besieged area, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on March 15.

“The reasoning of the military operation by the Syrian regime and Russia in East Ghouta is based on the argument that al-Nusra is present there, with estimated figures of between 300 and 1,000 [members],” he said, adding that Ankara has told Russia that this cannot justify the continued bombardment of civilians.

“Our intelligence organization is currently carrying out work to remove al-Nusra and other elements from East Ghouta. Our friends are working to get a result, but it is not very easy. You have to take a group of a few hundred people out of an area where 300,000 to 400,000 people live. It is not easy,” said Kalın.

The regime and Russia try to justify it by saying these [fighters] are carrying out attacks against regime and Russian targets, the spokesperson stated.

Nearly 400,000 civilians are trapped as the Syrian regime pounds the rebel-held district with air raids and artillery. Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed last year to designate Eastern Ghouta as a “de-escalation zone,” but it has not yet taken effect.

Fighters of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, were reportedly evacuated from Eastern Ghouta on March 9.

The Faylaq al-Rahman, which is also linked to Free Syrian Army, the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the Harakat al-Din al-Zenki and the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya are among the groups operating in the rebel bastion.