Fighters evacuated from besieged Syria town reach rebel city

Aug 28, 2016, 08:28

The arrivals were the first since the evacuation of the town just outside Damascus began on Friday under an agreement between the government and the rebels.

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov "have achieved clarity on the path forward" on ceasefire discussions, but there were "narrow issues" still to resolve.

The organization said Daraya is clear of gunmen and under control of the Syrian army. Some 700 gunmen and 4,000 civilians left the suburb in a fleet of buses bound for Idlib province in northern Syria which is under rebel control.

The U.N., which said it was not consulted over the plan, expressed concern over the evacuation, saying it was imperative that those participating do so voluntarily.

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The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has urged the warring sides in Aleppo to approve safe delivery of vital supplies as soon as possible.

The tanks were hit in the area of the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which Turkish forces helped pro-Ankara rebels seize from jihadists on Wednesday, the Dogan news agency said. Government and opposition forces negotiated an agreement to allow the evacuation to take place in safety. After meeting off and on with Lavrov for almost 10 hours, Kerry said the two "have achieved clarity" on a path to restore a truce in Syria but details remain to be worked out. The group claimed to have captured two Kurdish fighters.

Buses packed with people rumbled past bombed-out buildings in the Damascus suburb of Daraya Saturday.

During one weekend, opposition activists said more than 200 people were massacred there.

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Daraya, which lies in the western Ghouta region, saw some of the first demonstrations against Assad after the uprising against his family rule began in March 2011, during which residents took to the streets, sometimes pictured carrying red and white roses to reflect the peaceful nature of their protests.

But after being surrounded by loyalist forces for four years and subjected to constant heavy bombardment, life in Daraya had deteriorated to intolerable levels.

"The second and final convoy of rebels and civilians came out of Daraya today", Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Long sieges have prompted the rebels to abandon several areas, prompting activists to accuse Damascus of using "starve or surrender" tactics. The U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, told the U.N. Security Council earlier this year that severe food shortages were forcing some people in Daraya to eat grass.

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