Syrian civilians evacuated from rebel-held Damascus suburb

At least 300 civilians were evacuated from a rebel-held area near the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday under a deal with the government, state media and a monitoring group reported.

Dozens of people had been transferred from the area of Moadamiyeh al-Sham on the outskirts of Damascus to a temporary sheltering centre in Harjala south of Damascus, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.

They were originally from the Damascus suburb of Daraya who left it last week under an "amnesty decree," according to the report. 

The 303 evacuees included 162 children, Syrian state television reported. 

Both Daraya and Moadamiyeh al-Sham have been besieged by government forces for years after they fell to rebels.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said that the evacuation of at least 300 civilians, mostly children and women, from Moadamiyeh al-Sham was overseen by the Syrian Red Crescent.

Pro-Syrian Lebanese television al-Mayadeen showed live footage of civilians lining up and registering their names before they boarded buses to leave from Moadamiyeh al-Sham.

The move comes a week after civilians were evacuated from Daraya to temporary accommodation centres on the outskirts of Damascus.

Opposition fighters and their families were also transferred from Daraya to the rebel-held province of Idlib in north-western Syria.

Head of the Daraya municipality, Marwan Obeid, told dpa that 220 rebel fighters had refused to go to sheltering facilities in government-held areas. 

"They will leave for Idlib," Obeid said.

The fighters' departure has been delayed due to fighting between government forces and rebels in the central province of Hama, which is a conduit to rebel-held Idlib, Obeid added.

Around 500 more civilians will be evacuated from Moadamiyeh al-Sham in the "coming two days" to sheltering facilities in Harjale, Marwan said. 

Another deal is being negotiated with the government to give amnesty to an estimated 1,900 rebel fighters and allow them to stay in Moadamiyeh al-Sham in return for surrender of their weapons to regime forces, sources close to the talks said.

In 2013, a truce was reached between the locals of Moadamiyet al-Sham and the Syrian government, but this truce has been breached several times.

The Syrian government has now regained control or negotiated local truces in much of the Damascus hinterland that fell into rebel hands earlier in the five-year conflict.

The Syrian opposition has condemned the series of evacuation as a forced displacement. 

The opposition charges that many of the government gains around Damascus have been won by siege and starvation tactics, with rebel districts forced to surrender or sign local truces in order to gain supplies.

Some 600,000 people are currently under siege in Syria, according to UN estimates.

Most of them are in rebel-held areas besieged by government forces, though both rebels and the Islamic State extremist group are also imposing sieges on government-held areas.

The figures do not include Aleppo in northern Syria, where as many as 2 million people are at risk of siege after government and rebel forces cut through each other's supply lines around the divided city in recent weeks.

Last update: Fri, 02/09/2016 - 16:44

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