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Evacuation begins in Syria’s Darayya

Evacuation begins in Syria’s DarayyaCivilians and rebel fighters have begun leaving the Syrian town of Darayya after a deal was reached ending a four-year government siege.

The first buses left the town, near the capital Damascus, accompanied by ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles.

Rebels are due to go to the rebel-held city of Idlib while civilians will go to government shelters.

The Syrian army encircled Darayya in 2012 and civilians received fresh supplies only in June.

Syrian state media say 700 armed men and 4,000 civilians will be evacuated as part of the agreement.

The first bus to emerge from the town carried mostly children, women and elderly people, AFP news agency reports.

The office of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura sounded a note of caution saying it was "imperative that people of Darayya are protected in any evacuation that takes place, and that this takes place voluntarily".

A statement said the UN was neither involved nor consulted about the evacuation plan, but added, "The world is watching."

For years those living in Darayya have endured constant shelling, as well as suffering shortages of food, water and electricity.

Darayya saw some of the first protests against the Syrian government, an uprising that transformed into a full-blown civil conflict.

The withdrawal of rebels just a few miles from Damascus is a boost for President Bashar al-Assad, analysts say.

The evacuation comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry holds talks on Syria with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.

They are meeting in a bid to broker a temporary ceasefire in the city of Aleppo, where fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent weeks, leaving hundreds dead.

Source: BBC News
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