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Syria rebels begin leaving last Ghouta town under deal

Agreement with government will see Jaish al-Islam rebel group withdraw to northern Syria after group releases dozens of prisoners
Pro-Assad forces are seen as they advance towards the town of Douma, the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta (AFP)

Dozens of hostages released by rebels in Syria's Douma arrived at Syrian army lines on Monday night, state media said, under a Russian-brokered deal for the fighters to surrender the besieged town.

Rebels and civilians had started leaving the last opposition-controlled town in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday. 

State news agency SANA said buses carrying Jaish al-Islam rebels and their families had exited the town of Douma and would head north to opposition-held territory. 

The evacuations came after accusations Syria's government had used toxic gas on Douma, which it denied.

There was no immediate comment from Jaish al-Islam.

The rebel group has more than 3,500 prisoners and hostages in its prisons in Douma, Rami Abdul Rahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, told Reuters.

Five prisoners were released on Wednesday, after earlier departures by Jaish al-Islam fighters.

Russian news agency RIA, citing a security source, said Jaish al-Islam rebels will leave Douma in two batches in the coming hours.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has regained control of nearly all of Eastern Ghouta in a Russian-backed military campaign that began in February, leaving just Douma in rebel hands.

Tens of thousands of people are estimated to be sheltering in the battered city.

After a lull of a few days, government forces began bombarding Douma again on Friday.