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Syria army, rebels strike deal to lift Daraya siege

Aug 26, 2016, 2:34 AM EDT
Syrian rebels
(Source: Global Panorama/flickr)

Syrian government forces and the rebels struck a deal to allow evacuation of thousands of civilians and fighters from the besieged town of Daraya, near the capital Damascus on Thursday. According to the agreement, 700 armed fighters will move to rebel-controlled Idlib while 4,000 civilians will be transferred to government shelters. The evacuation, which is expected to begin on Friday, will mark the end of one of the longest standoffs in the Syrian conflict.

Daraya, which saw some of the first protests against the Syrian regime, has been under siege since 2012, reports the BBC. The civilians in the town suffered severe shortages of food, water and power amid frequent bombing and shelling during the four years of encirclement. Analysts believe that the withdrawal of the rebels from near the capital is a strategic victory for President Bashar al-Assad.

The agreement, which follows a peace talk after Wednesday’s ceasefire, allows rebels to take light weapons along with them. However, heavy weapons will be seized by the government once it takes over the town.

Amid raging violence, Daraya has transformed into a pile of rubble, reports Al Jazeera. Over the recent weeks, the Syrian forces stepped up air raids and destroyed the last remaining medical facilities in the town.