Robert Fisk: How a failed Syrian prisoner swap turned into a massacre in devastated Daraya ...
THE massacre town of Daraya in Syria is a place of ghosts and questions. It echoed with the roar of mortar explosions and the crackle of gunfire yesterday, its few returning citizens talking of death, assault, foreign "terrorists", and its cemetery of slaughter haunted by snipers.
The men and women to whom we could talk, two of whom had lost loved ones on Daraya's day of infamy four days ago, told a story different from the version that has been repeated around the world: theirs was a tale of hostage-taking by the Free Syria Army and desperate prisoner-exchange negotiations between the armed opponents of the regime and the Syrian army, before President Bashar al-Assad's government forces stormed into the town to seize it back from rebel control.
Officially, no word of such talks between the enemies has been mentioned. But senior Syrian officers told The Independent how they had "exhausted all possibilities of reconciliation" with those holding the town, while residents of Daraya said there had been an attempt by both sides to arrange a swap of civilians and off-duty soldiers – apparently kidnapped by rebels because of their family ties to the government army – with prisoners in the army's custody. When these talks broke down, the army advanced into Daraya, six miles from the centre of Damascus.