Rebel group vows to fight and not leave Syria's Ghouta

Rebel group vows to fight and not leave Syria's Ghouta
This photo released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a member of the Syrian Civil Defense group carrying a boy who was wounded during airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Sunday, March. 11, 2018. Syrian government forces divided the eastern Ghouta enclave outside Damascus into two, pro-government media said Sunday, dealing a major setback to rebels and threatening to exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation at the doors of the nation's capital. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — The largest rebel group in the besieged suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus has vowed not to leave the area and to continue fighting advancing government forces.

The Army of Islam was responding to some local reports that said it is negotiating with the Syrian government and its Russian backers to leave the area known as eastern Ghouta.

Hamza Bayraqdar, the group’s chief military spokesman, said in a video statement posted online that “our revolutionary ideology does not allow us to sell the blood of the holy warriors who liberated Ghouta.”

Syrian government forces have recently captured more than half of eastern Ghouta and laid a siege on the group’s stronghold of Douma.

Bayraqdar says: “we will stay in Ghouta and defend it.”