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Daraya Siege: Tears as Evacuation Draws Closer | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy waits at the entrance of the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, before rebels and residents start being evacuated under an agreement reached on Thursday between rebels and Syria’s army, August 26, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The evacuation of the Daraya town, near the capital Damascus, is expected to begin on Friday.

Ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles are poised to enter the town where thousands of rebels and civilians, many in tears, are prepared to evacuate the Syrian town after a four-year army siege.

The evacuation comes after a deal struck by al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces. The deal was announced on Thursday by Syrian state news agency SANA.

“Seven hundred armed men with their personal weapons will leave Daraya to head to the (rebel-controlled) city of Idlib, while thousands of men and women with their families will be taken to reception centres,” SANA said.

Darayya enjoys a strategic position – given its closeness to Daraa Roa and the capital. The armed opposition had used the town as a connection hub between western and eastern Ghouta, Damascus.

A Syrian source on the ground said Thursday the evacuation could take four days to complete and a military source said the army would enter Daraya.

Residents bid farewell while in tears as they prepared to leave, according to Daraya’s local council official Facebook page which further stated that civilians would be taken to the government-held town of Hrajela in Western Ghouta, outside the capital.

“From there they will continue to the areas they wish to go to,” it said.

Daraya has been seen as a symbolic bastion of the uprising that began with peaceful protests against Assad’s regime, before devolving into a war that has killed over 290,000 people.

Just one food aid convoy entered the town since four years this June, shortly after a single convoy carrying medicine entered.

About 600,000 live under siege across Syria, where the majority is surrounded by regime forces, although extremists also use the tactic.

Meanwhile U.N. calls on all Syrian parties to guarantee safety of evacuees from the town and to ensure they are not subject to arbitrary arrest.