Daraya's rebel fighters and families arrive in Idlib

Daraya's rebel fighters and families arrive in Idlib
Syrian opposition fighters and their families have arrived in Idlib after being forced to evacuate their homes in Daraya following a regime-rebel agreement.
2 min read
27 August, 2016
Daraya fighters and their families were forced from their homes [Getty]

The first group of rebels and their families evacuated from the Syrian town of Daraya have reached opposition-held territory, a monitor said on Saturday.

At least five buses carrying fighters and their families arrived in the rebel-held city of Idlib in Syria's northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The arrivals were the first since the evacuation of the town just outside Damascus began on Friday under an agreement between the government and the rebels.

Daraya had been ravaged by constant bombardment by the army and the four years of siege that saw just a single aid convoy reach the town since late 2012 with no food onboard.

Emotional farewell

Civilian residents of the town, believed to number around 8,000, are also being evacuated. They are being taken to regime-run reception centres pending resettlement elsewhere.

Some 300 fighters and their families were evacuated during the first part of the operation on Friday, according to a military source, with the departures expected to continue on Saturday.

Other civilians were also evacuated but no figures were immediately available.

Daraya, just 15 minutes from Damascus, was one of the first towns in Syria to rise up against President Bashar al-Assad's government and became a symbol of the uprising.

It was surrounded by loyalist forces in late 2012.

The rebels said they were forced to agree to evacuate the town because of deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

In recent months, government forces have made a number of advances outside the capital.

Long sieges have prompted the rebels to abandon several areas following Damascus use of "starve or surrender" tactics.

Rebel fighters pulled out of Syria's third city Homs last year under a similar evacuation deal.

More than 290,000 people have been killed and over half the population displaced since the conflict erupted in 2011.