Syrian opposition start leaving Damascus suburb under evacuation deal

Hundreds of Syrian rebel fighters and their families depart Barzeh for opposition-held Idlib province in northwest Syria as part of the deal.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People evacuated from the two rebel-besieged Shia villages of Foua and Kefraya, on board a bus in insurgent-held al-Rashideen, on their way to regime-controlled Aleppo. (April 21, 2017)

Hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters on Monday began leaving Barzeh, a besieged Damascus district, as part of an evacuation deal with the regime, state media and a war monitor reported.

State television said fighters and their relatives had started departing Barzeh for rebel-held Idlib province in northwest Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said buses had arrived in Barzeh at dawn and hundreds of fighters and family members started to board them. More people will leave over the next five days, state TV and the Observatory said.

Hamza Birqdar, the military spokesman for the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, confirmed the evacuation but said his faction had not taken part in any negotiations. He said the government had concluded the deal with a civilian committee in Barzeh.

Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad has promoted the use of such evacuations, as a part of "reconciliation" deals for rebel-held areas that surrender to the government in order to reduce bloodshed.

However, the UN has criticised both the use of siege tactics which precede such deals and the evacuations themselves as amounting to forcible displacement.

Barzeh, at the northeast edge of Damascus and near opposition-held eastern Ghouta, has been the site of intense fighting in recent months.

On Sunday, Syrian regime forces advanced under intense bombardment in the Qaboun district, which adjoins Barzeh in the same besieged enclave, the Observatory said.

TRTWorld and agencies