Evacuation of major rebel stronghold in Damascus seen as victory for Assad regime

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Syrian citizens carry their belongings as they prepare to evacuate from Daraya on Friday. Photo: Darayya Local Council

ARA News 

DAMASCUS – Thousands of Syrians started to evacuate the long-besieged city of Darayya in Damascus suburb on Friday, local sources and officials said.

This comes one day after the Syrian regime and the armed opposition reached an agreement, under which some 4,000 civilians must leave Darayya, as well as 700 armed militants.

The evacuation process is expected to take some three days, and those evacuated from Darayya are expected to be taken to the northwestern Idlib province.

The deal was seen as as a symbolic victory for the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In Darayya, which has been blockaded by regime troops since 2012, starvation has been used by the Assad regime as a war tactic, according to activists.

“They have been living under siege for over three years without food, medical assistance or other lifesaving essentials,” UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement.

Evacuation Must Be Voluntarily 

In the meantime, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said in statement on Friday that evacuation of people from Darayya “must take place voluntarily”.

“It is imperative that people of Darayya are protected in any evacuation that takes place, and that this takes place voluntarily,” de Mistura said.

 The UN envoy also called on the United States and Russia, as the Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), to ensure that cessation of hostilities was in compliance with international humanitarian law and protection standards.

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi

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