Rebels, civilians to vacate Daraya following deal

"This is how the longest standing battle of the Syrian war is coming to an end".

In four years, just one food aid convoy entered Daraya, in June, shortly after a convoy carrying medicine.

The declaration Saturday comes only a day after the evacuation of almost 5,000 residents and fighters from the suburb began.

Daraya is the largest town in the Western Ghouta countryside, and the second most important stronghold for the rebels in the countryside of Damascus, after Douma, the major rebel bastion east of the capital Damascus.

SANA initially said 4,000 civilians were to leave Daraya, as well as 700 rebels. The gunmen and their families headed to the northern rebel-controlled Idlib province.

Civilians, who want to live under the government control, were transported by buses to the town of Hirjalleh in the southern countryside of Damascus.

The rebels who controlled Daraya belonged to two rebel groups: Ajnad al-Sham and the Martyrs of Islam, groups allied with the Army of Conquest.

Gaining control of Daraya is a boost for Mr Assad nd increases the security of his seat of power in the capital.

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.




Rebel fighters and government forces agreed to a deal on Thursday to evacuate the town, which pro-government forces have surrounded since 2012.

The Turkish-backed Nour el-din el-Zinki rebel group said fighters, backed by Turkish tanks, advanced Saturday on the village of Youssef Beik that lies southwest of Jarablus, seizing it from Kurdish-affiliated forces.

There was no immediate comment from the Syria Democratic Forces, the USA -backed Kurdish-affiliated forces.

"A terrorist center" remains in those areas of Syria and "no one can deal with it because so-called moderate opposition groups are there", Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said in an interview the day before the talks.

The Jarablus Military Council, supported by the USA -backed and Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, said the airstrikes on their bases in the village of Amarneh marked an "unprecedented and unsafe escalation".

Elsewhere at least 15 people died in barrel bombings in Aleppo, reports say. Minutes later, Khandakani said another barrel bomb was dropped, injuring an ambulance driver, and hampering rescue efforts. The government denies it uses barrel bombs.

The evacuation marks a victory for the Syrian regime, as rebels ceded an area they'd been defending for years.

The Jarablus Military Council says the airstrikes Saturday on their bases in Amarneh village marked an "unprecedented and risky escalation" and came after Turkish artillery shelled the positions the day before.

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