300 Syrians leave rebel town under govt deal
More than 300 Syrians living in a rebel held town near Damascus were evacuated on Friday under a deal with the government, state media reported. The agreement between the regime and the rebels had already seen thousands of civilians and opposition fighters leave the town of Daraya, southwest of the capital, after a four-year government siege.
Civilians evacuated today from nearby Moadimayet al-Sham had been living there for around three years after fleeing fighting in Daraya. Moadimayet al-Sham is also under government siege, but after a truce deal signed in late 2013 has been spared the heavy fighting that has ravaged other rebel-held areas around the capital.
Negotiations are underway to secure a deal under which rebel fighters in the town will also leave, though civilians will reportedly remain, parties to the talks said.
The evacuees walked to the edge of Moadimayet al-Sham, where eight buses were waiting to take them to reception centres elsewhere in Damascus province, an AFP photographer reported.
Soldiers searched their suitcases as they left, and checked their names against a list.
State media said 303 residents of Daraya were leaving Moadimayet al-Sham and would be taken to Hrajeleh, a regime-held district, for processing. State television said they consisted of 162 children, 79 women and 62 men.
"I've been taking refuge here for three years and I hope that life in the reception centre will be better than here," said Roueida, a mother of seven, as she left.
The evacuation follows the implementation of the deal in Daraya itself, which saw the town emptied of rebels and civilians and retaken by government forces.
Opposition fighters said they were forced to accept the deal, under which rebels and their families were given safe passage to the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib.