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Syria: evacuations from besieged, battered areas

News24 - Sunday 15th April, 2018

The evacuation of the last rebels out of Syria's Eastern Ghouta, placing the regime in full control of the last opposition bastion near Damascus, follows a string of similar operations in the seven-year war.

The regime has pushed such "reconciliation" deals to recapture swathes of territory, offering a halt to bombardment and sieges in exchange for the withdrawal of rebels and their families.

Amnesty International, in a November 2017 report, said such forced displacements were crimes against humanity.

Here are some of the major evacuations:

- 2014 onwards: Homs -

In May 2014, rebels leave their fiefdom in the devastated Old City of Homs, previously known as the "capital of the revolution", following a two-year siege.

The first regime-opposition deal to ensure a rebel retreat since the war erupted in 2011, it takes years to fully implement.

Between March and May 2017, thousands are evacuated from Waer, Homs's last rebel-held neighbourhood, allowing regime forces to retake full control of Syria's third-largest city.

- 2016: Daraya, Moadimayet al-Sham -

In August 2016, rebels quit Daraya in Damascus province following a deal that ended a brutal four-year regime siege and relentless bombardment.

The rebels and their families are taken to the northwestern province of Idlib. The army retakes control of Daraya.

In September, the army evacuates some 300 Daraya inhabitants from neighbouring rebel-held Moadimayet al-Sham, where they had taken refuge three years earlier.

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, criticises the "strategy" of forced displacement.

- 2016: Aleppo -

Following a suffocating siege and all-out offensive with barrel bombs, rockets and air strikes, Syria's army in December 2016 retakes full control of second city Aleppo.

The announcement comes after tens of thousands of rebels and civilians are bussed out under a deal backed by Iran, Russia and Turkey.

In 2017, UN investigators say the Aleppo deal was a "war crime of forced displacement of the civilian population".

- 2017: Wadi Barada -

In January 2017, the army recaptures Wadi Barada, a flashpoint area supplying water to Damascus, after rebels and civilians accept safe passage to Idlib in exchange for the lifting of a siege.

The regime, supported by Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah, had been trying to retake the area, northwest of Damascus, since December 2016.

- 2017: Four towns -

In April 2017, under a deal sponsored by regime ally Iran and rebel backer Qatar, nearly 11 000 people leave four besieged areas.

The evacuation involves Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shiite areas in Idlib province surrounded by rebels, and the rebel-held towns of Zabadani and Madaya.

The towns had previously seen medical evacuations and aid deliveries.

- 2017: Barzeh, Qabun, Tishrin -

In May 2017, the regime secures a "reconciliation" deal for the rebel-held Damascus districts of Barzeh, Qabun and Tishrin.

Several thousand civilians and fighters leave for Idlib, allowing the regime to retake full control of the neighbourhoods.

- 2018: Eastern Ghouta -

After a brutal weeks-long offensive, Syria's government and its ally Russia begin securing evacuation deals to clear Eastern Ghouta of rebels.

Some 4 600 people, including 1 400 fighters from the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham rebel group, are evacuated to Idlib between March 22 and 23.

Since then, more than 46 000 people, about a quarter of whom are fighters, have reached Idlib, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Thousands more, including Jaish al-Islam fighters and civilians from Douma, have been transferred to the northern province of Aleppo.

The assault on Eastern Ghouta since mid-February has killed more than 1,700 civilians and prompted tens of thousands to flee into regime-held territory.

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