Pro-Assad forces declare victory as Islamists surrender position in Damascus

By REUTERS
December 25, 2015 17:30
1 minute read.

 
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Two thousand Syrian Islamist fighters are expected to be evacuated soon from besieged, rebel-held areas of southern Damascus in a deal brokered by the United Nations, a Hezbollah TV station said on Friday.

The deal marks a success for the government of President Bashar Assad, increasing its chances of reasserting control over a strategic area just 4 km (2.5 miles) south of the center of the capital.

It also highlights the increasing efforts of the UN and foreign governments to bring about local ceasefires and safe-passage agreements as steps towards the wider goal of ending Syria's civil war, in which more than 250,000 people have been killed in nearly five years of fighting.

The besieged militants include fighters of Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's offshoot in Syria. Hezbollah's Manar TV said 18 buses had arrived to start taking them and 1,500 family members to areas under the control of IS and other rebel groups. It was not clear whether the buses were provided by the UN or by the Syrian army.

The rebels' capitulation was forced by a government siege over several years that squeezed the flow of food and humanitarian aid, starving many people to death in what rights group Amnesty International has described as war crimes.

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