December 2, 2016 / 5:35 PM / 9 months ago

Syrian rebels and families leave another town near Damascus

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of Syrian rebels and their families left al-Tal near Damascus on Friday under a deal with the government, the latest in a number of such evacuations as the army and its allies consolidate their control over the outskirts of the capital.

While the fiercest recent battles in Syria's civil war have taken place in the northern city of Aleppo, the government and allied forces have also been steadily advancing in the area around Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group, said around 2,000 rebels and family members had left al-Tal on Friday in more than 40 buses and some ambulances.

Syrian state television put the number at nearly 1,000, including fighters and their family members.

Those leaving will travel to northern Syria, local sources and the Observatory said.

Rebels in the town of Khan al-Shih, southwest of Damascus, were allowed to leave for Idlib province this week, and similar deals have also been implemented since the summer for the nearby towns of al-Mouadamiya and Daraya.

Al-Tal is 10 km (six miles) north of central Damascus.

Rebel groups retain a significant pocket of territory in Eastern Ghouta, an area of towns and farms east of the capital, but the enclave has been shrinking under army advances, intense bombing and a prolonged siege.

Local sources had estimated that there were about 1,500 rebels in al-Tal, about a third of them from the hardline Islamist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front.

Reporting By Kinda Makieh in Damascus and Angus McDowall in Beirut; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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