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Syrians flee Daraya after four-year siege

Syrians flee Daraya after four-year siege


AFP
Daraya
Rebels and civilians, many in tears, began evacuating the Syrian town of Daraya on Friday after a four-year army siege, in a blow for the beleaguered opposition.
The evacuation came after a deal struck by President Bashar al Assad's government and opposition forces in the town, which is near Damascus and was one of the first to rise up against the regime.
The fighters and their families left the devastated town aboard buses escorted by ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles, an AFP reporter said.
The first bus to emerge from Daraya carried mostly children, elderly people and women.
Inside Daraya, which has been surrounded by loyalist forces since 2012 and suffered constant bombardment, tearful residents said final goodbyes, a local rebel told AFP.
"This is the hardest moment, everyone is crying, young and old," he said on condition of anonymity.
State news agency SANA, which announced the deal on Thursday, said 700 rebels and their families would go to rebel-controlled Idlib and thousands of civilians would be taken to government reception centres. The evacuation is expected to last until Sunday, and a military source said the army would then enter Daraya.
A rebel official said the civilians would go to regions under regime control around the capital and rebels will go to Idlib"or sort out their situation with the regime".
A military source said 300 rebels and their families would be evacuated on Friday. Daraya council said on Facebook that civilians would be taken to the government-held town of Hrajela in Western Ghouta, outside Damascus.
"From there they will continue to the areas they wish to go to," it said.
The council said fighters and their families would be taken to northern Syria, escorted by the Red Crescent.
The United Nations said it was not involved in negotiating the deal, although a UN team would enter Daraya to identify civilian needs. page 13

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