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Syrian militant groups releases hostages near Damascus - SANA agency

December 30, 2017, 8:10 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A group of hostages was handed over to the Syrian Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, whose members are currently evacuating seriously ill residents of Eastern Ghouta

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MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. The Jaysh al-Islam militant group, based in the city of Douma some 12 km away from the capital Damascus, released a group of civilians on Friday, Syria’s SANA news agency reported.

The group, whose primary base of operations has been the Damascus area, particularly the city of Douma and region of Eastern Ghouta, have captured women and children from families supporting the incumbent government of Bashar Assad and used them as a live shield.

A group of hostages was handed over to the Syrian Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, whose members are currently evacuating seriously ill residents of Eastern Ghouta.

A total of 86 people have been taken out of Eastern Ghouta in the past 24 hours, all of them were taken to Damascus hospitals, the agency reported.

According to SANA, Jaysh al-Islam militants "still hold hundreds of people hostage."

The United Nations earlier called for evacuating from Eastern Ghouta 500 people in need of immediate medical assistance, including 73 people with cancer. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expects to continue evacuation over the weekend.

Eastern Ghouta is included in one of the de-escalation zones established in accordance with the agreement reached by the three countries acting as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire - Russia, Iran and Turkey. The Syrian military command announced a ceasefire in this region on July 22, but the truce was repeatedly violated by militant groups.

The humanitarian evacuation mission was preceded by long talks between the Syrian government and the group’s leadership. Officers from the Russian Center for Reconciliation played a key role in the talks as they coordinated the negotiation process and ensured the security of both sides.

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