Beirut, London- Civilians and rebel fighters have begun leaving the Syrian town of Daraya after a deal was reached ending a four-year government siege.
Saddened by leaving their homes, civilians and fighters started evacuating the destroyed city on Friday. Some 700 armed men and 4,000 civilians will be evacuated as part of the agreement.
Around 3:00 pm, busses started to evacuate the city from citizens and fighters. Agence France Presse reported that most of the first bus passengers were women, children and elderly. Other busses transported fighters with their families. A military source said that Friday’s batch included 300 fighters with their families and that this process will resume on Saturday.
Remarkably, this is the first time the Syrian regime admits to besieging civilians for four years. Syrian state TV broadcasted on Friday the evacuation of residents by busses that belong to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Before the war, up to 250,000 used to live in Daraya compared to only 8,000 now living in a city that most of which is destroyed, according to estimates.
The U.N. expressed concerns over this agreement to break the siege. Stephen Rothwell O’Brien, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told Reuters that the U.N. continues to demand settling peace in Daraya to ensure that civilian movements are safe and coherent with international humanitarian laws.
Head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Rami Abdulrahman stated that the regime set a condition that no opposition members remain in Daraya and vowed at later stage to allow civilians to return if they wanted to. Abdulrahman told Asharq Al-Awsat that some of the Syrian regime supporters moved to regime-ruled areas and will return once Daraya is purged from opposition forces.
Abdulrahman ruled out the intention to conduct a demographic change, affirming that the regime is incapable of implementing such a plan.