08/26/2016, 09.49
SYRIA
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Daraya: Deal reached to evacuate besieged town after four years

Both sides reached an agreement to allow civilians and rebels to leave the area. Since 2012 residents are under siege and face bombings and shortages of food, water and power. Washington and Moscow is due to hold talks focused on targeting Islamic State. In Aleppo 11 children had been killed in a barrel bomb attack. 

 

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A deal has been reached to allow civilians and rebel fighters to leave the Syrian town of Daraya after a long government siege.

Both sides said that the evacuation of the town, near the capital Damascus, will begin on Friday.

Government forces have encircled Daraya since 2012 and since then residents have faced near-constant bombardment and shortages of food, water and power. Civilians only received their first supplies in four years in June.

It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to hold 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.

Under the terms of the Daraya deal, 700 armed men will leave for the rebel-controlled city of Idlib while 4,000 civilians will move to government shelters, Syrian state media reported.

Daraya saw some of the first protests against the Syrian government, an uprising that transformed into a full-blown civil conflict.

In the past, Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus Msgr Mario Zenari denounced several times the dramatic conditions of Daraya and alle the other towns in Syria under siege (see Yarmouk). For the pontifical representatives they are a “disgrace” unfolding amid a silent international community. 

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

"We are being forced to leave, but our condition has deteriorated to the point of being unbearable," Hussam Ayash, an activist in the town, told the Associated Press news agency.

"We withstood for four years but we couldn't any longer."

Meanwhile a monitoring group said 11 children had been killed in a barrel bomb attack by government forces in a rebel-held neighbourhood of Aleppo.

They were among 15 people killed in the incident, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The UN says Russia, who has been supporting the Syrian government in its offensives, has agreed to a 48-hour pause in Aleppo to allow in much-needed aid.

But the organisation added it was still waiting for agreement from other parties fighting on the ground.

In another development, the US has urged "strong and swift action" after a UN investigation concluded that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people.

 

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