Aid convoys arrive as rebels surrender besieged Syrian town after four years

Aid convoys entered the besieged Syrian town of Daraya on Friday as hundreds of rebel fighters prepared to lay down their arms after ceding control to government forces. A convoy of Red Crescent ambulances reached the town, a few kilometres from president Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus palace and the government-held Mazzeh air base. They arrived as up to 8,000 civilians prepared to leave the town, which has been under bombardment for four years. Convoys of buses began shipping them away, along with about 800 rebel fighters who will join other rebel forces in the north.

We are being forced to leave, but our condition has deteriorated to the point of being unbearable. We withstood for four years but we couldn’t any longer.

Activist Hussam Ayash

The pause in fighting in Daraya is seen as a major coup for Mr Assad, who has regained control from two rebel groups, Ajnad al-Sham and the Martyrs of Islam. Observers fear it is part of a strategy to drive Sunnis from their homes and communities, further fracturing the country along sectarian lines. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Russia on Friday renewed efforts to secure a military and humanitarian cooperation agreement for war-torn Syria at talks in Geneva. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the talks on Syria with U.S. secretary of state John Kerry had been “excellent”.