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Syria rebels say 'chemical attack' pushed them to quit Ghouta

AFP  |  Beirut 

A top Syrian rebel told AFP today that his faction only agreed to abandon its battered enclave outside because of an attack.

"Of course, the is what pushed us to agree" to a withdrawal from Douma, said Yasser Dalwan, a high-ranking member of

It was the first public acknowledgement by of a deal reached for Douma, their last rebel holdout in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of

The agreement was announced on Sunday morning by and its ally Russia, just hours after toxic gases were allegedly released on Douma.

First responders there said more than 40 people died Saturday after suffering symptoms consistent with chemical exposure, including wheezing, discoloured skin and foaming at the mouth.

World powers have threatened a strong response, with French saying today he had "proof" was behind the attack.

and its ally have both denied the accusations, and the global said it would deploy a team to investigate.

Analysts have said Syrian may have used to terrify Douma's residents and push rebels to withdraw without a fight. had long insisted that it would refuse to agree to an evacuation deal for Douma.

But since the alleged attack, several thousand rebels and civilians have left Douma for opposition-held territory in the north.

They included Jaish al-Islam's Issam Buwaydani, according to the for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group. "Not all the leadership has left yet. Departures are ongoing," Dalwan told AFP.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, April 12 2018. 17:05 IST