Eastern Ghouta was the opposition's final stronghold on the edge of Damascus, but beleaguered opposition groups are now left with less than 10 percent of their one-time bastion.

A kid is seen after a second convoy of vehicles, carry civilians and opposition fighters from the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta arrived in Hama province, Syria on March 24, 2018.
A kid is seen after a second convoy of vehicles, carry civilians and opposition fighters from the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta arrived in Hama province, Syria on March 24, 2018. (AA)

Hundreds of members of Syrian opposition groups and civilians quit the penultimate opposition-held pocket of eastern Ghouta on Saturday, bringing the regime ever closer to sealing its victory over the battered enclave, rebels and regime's media say.

Since February 18, a Russian-backed air and ground assault has brought most of the area under regime control, and Damascus is using evacuation deals to clear the last three pockets.

Talks are still ongoing for the final area around Ghouta's largest town of Douma, but negotiated withdrawals have already been reached to clear two other zones.

TRT World's Arabella Munro has more on the story.

More evacuations on the way

Fighters from the Faylaq al Rahman faction were the latest to leave eastern Ghouta, following in the wake of another group that quit the town of Harasta last week.

A convoy of 17 buses carrying 981 people, including opposition fighters and civilians, drove out the battered enclave late Saturday, according to regime news agency SANA

Syrian regime television said the evacuees were from Zamalka, Arbin, Jobar, and Ain Tarma - all held by Faylaq al Rahman - and would be bussed to Idlib in the northwest. 

The withdrawals will continue on Sunday, with a total of 7,000 people expected to be bussed out under the deal.

AFP's correspondent in nearby Harasta, which overlooks the meeting point for the convoy, saw more than a dozen buses gathering at the crossing over several hours. 

Armed and masked Russian military personnel boarded each bus. Opposition fighters were searched, then given food and drink by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. 

 Relatives buried under rubble

The evacuations had been scheduled to begin on Saturday morning, but a source said they were delayed due to "logistical issues," including unblocking and demining the route they would take.

Buses entered around 1400 GMT (4:00 pm local time), and fighters, their families, and other civilians began boarding them in Arbin as night fell.

Mohammad, 20, was among them and said his departure was bittersweet.

He and his two brothers survived bombardment on their hometown, but their father did not.

They were unable to extract his body from the rubble for a funeral. 

"What kills us is that we couldn't bury our relatives. They stayed under the rubble," Mohammad told AFP as he limped onto a bus with his siblings.

Regime's leave or die strategy

The regime has implemented a "leave or die" strategy to retake Ghouta, reducing swathes of it to rubble with air strikes and artillery fire but keeping open the offer of evacuation.

The onslaught has killed more than 1,600 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Regime media said on Saturday that more than 105,000 civilians have fled Ghouta in recent weeks. 

The regime army has opened three "corridors" for people to flee from newly-recaptured territory into regime zones. 

Once the regime had whittled down opposition territory to three isolated pockets, it pursued separate negotiations with the groups in each zone. 

The first deal brokered by Russia was reached with the Ahrar al Sham for the town of Harasta and saw more than 4,500 people, including over 1,400 fighters, evacuated to Idlib. 

The second agreement was reached with Faylaq al Rahman on Friday and provides for evacuations, medical treatment for wounded civilians and fighters, and the release of detainees held by the opposition group. 

Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years that has prevented the delivery of badly-needed humanitarian supplies. 

Syria remains locked in a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

According to UN officials, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

Source: AFP