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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Evacuation of besieged Daraya begins as UN warns 'the world is watching'

Syrian soldiers are seen at the entrance of Daraya, a blockaded Damascus suburb (AP)
Syrian soldiers are seen at the entrance of Daraya, a blockaded Damascus suburb (AP)

Syrian rebels and civilians have started leaving a ravaged and long-besieged suburb of Damascus as part of a deal struck with the government.

The first bus with rebels and their families emerged from inside Daraya on Friday, surrounded by armed Syrian army troops.

Under the agreement, the rebels will be allowed safe passage to the rebel-held northern province of Idlib, while the civilians will be taken to a shelter south of Daraya.

Daraya's rebels struck the deal late on Thursday, after four years of gruelling bombardment and a crippling siege by government forces that left the sprawling suburb south west of the capital in ruins.

The United Nations called for the protection of people being evacuated from the suburb and said their departure must be voluntary.

A statement issued by the office of the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the UN was not consulted or involved in the negotiation of the deal reached between rebel factions and government forces in Daraya.

Under the terms of the agreement, some 700 gunmen and 4,000 civilians are to evacuate the suburb.

The statement said "the world is watching".

It described the situation in Daraya as "extremely grave" and said it was "tragic" that repeated appeals to lift the siege of Daraya had never been heeded.

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