Evacuation of Damascus suburb begins

Civilians and rebel fighters have begun leaving the Syrian town of Darayya, near the Syrian capital Damascus, after a deal was reached ending a four-year government siege.

Opposition fighters are due to be given safe passage to the rebel-held city of Idlib, while civilians will go to government shelters in Damascus. Some 700 armed men and 4,000 civilians will be evacuated as part of the agreement, according to Syrian state media.

The Syrian army encircled Darayya in 2012 and just one aid delivery has reached the town since then. For years those living in Darayya have endured constant shelling, as well as suffering shortages of food, water and electricity.

The withdrawal of rebels just a few miles from Damascus is a boost for President Bashar al-Assad, analysts say.

The evacuation comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry holds talks on Syria with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva. They are meeting in a bid to broker a temporary ceasefire in the city of Aleppo, where fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent weeks, leaving hundreds dead.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed a deal to boost aid to Aleppo, Turkish media reported.

[BBC]

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