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Deal Reached to End Long Siege of Damascus Suburb: Rebel Leader, Locals

AMMAN — Rebels and Syria's army agreed a deal on Thursday to evacuate all residents and insurgents from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, a rebel leader said, ending one of the longest stand-offs in the five-year conflict.

Syria's army has surrounded rebels and civilians and blocked food deliveries in Daraya since 2012, regularly bombing the area just 4 miles from President Bashar al Assad's seat of power.

It was one of the first places to see peaceful protests against Assad's rule, and fought off repeated attempts to retake it by government forces as the conflict escalated into civil war.

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"We reached agreement on the evacuation of all of the people of Daraya civilians and fighters," said Captain Abu Jamal, the head of the Liwa Shuda al Islam, the biggest of two main rebel groups inside Daraya.

The evacuation would start on Friday and last for two or three days, he added.

Local council sources said around 5,000 people would be evacuated from the suburb that, before the civil war, was home to a quarter of a million people.

Image: SYRIA-CONFLICT
Fire and smoke gush out of buildings following reported air strikes on the Syrian besieged rebel-held town of Daraya near the capital Damascus on August 16, 2016. FADI DIRANI / AFP - Getty Images

Rebels said that would include 1,000 fighters who would be evacuated with their weapons to rebel-held areas.

Authorities only agreed in June this year to allow food deliveries into the suburb under a cessation of hostilities deal, but just one shipment has made it since then.

In the last few weeks the army has escalated its bombardment of the rebel-held bastion, intensifying the use of barrel and incendiary bombs. Last week its only hospital was hit, rebels and aid workers said.