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Egypt rescues trapped nationals in cooperation with Syria

Syrians who were evacuated from the militant-held city of Harasta in the Eastern Ghouta region arrive at a clinic for medical assistance, at a camp for displaced people in Maarrat al-Ikhwan, Idlib Province, March 29, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Egypt says Syria helped it get seven Egyptians out of shelters in areas now controlled by the Syrian government, which has maintained a semblance of diplomatic relates with Cairo. 

Egypt's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday its embassy had cooperated with the Syrian authorities to secure the release of the Egyptians from camps hosting thousands of civilians who fled militants after Syria recaptured Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus.  

The seven Egyptians came from two different shelters in Syria, the ministry said, adding that preparations were underway to fly the rescued back home.

Another Egyptian family was rescued "from the area of military operations in Ghouta a few weeks ago," the ministry added.

The Syrian army managed to retake Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, late in March. For years, the region had served as a launch pad for deadly terror attacks against civilians in Damascus.

Unlike Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt has repeatedly expressed support for Syria's unity and the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Egypt condemned an April 14 missile attack by the US, Britain and France against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said Cairo and Riyadh did not share common views on the Syria crisis while Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi stressed that he supported the Syrian army in its war against terrorists.

However, Egypt's announcement last month that talks were underway with officials from “various countries” to consider a US proposal to form an Arab army and replace the American military forces in Syria may not go well with Damascus.

The proposal has called on Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to increase their spending in Syria, with US National Security Adviser John Bolton reportedly having asked Egypt's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel to know if his country would contribute to the plan.

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