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Syrian rebels prepare to withdraw from besieged Wadi Barada Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Syrian rebels prepare to withdraw from besieged Wadi Barada

Rebels can choose to stay unarmed in Wadi Barada or leave to Idlib [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2017

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Rebels in Syria will withdraw from the flash point Wadi Barada valley on Sunday, after reaching a deal with the Syrian regime that grants them safe passage to Idlib.
Syrian rebels are preparing in the next few hours to begin the withdrawal from Wadi Barada, a valley close to the capital Damascus, which has seen fierce fighting and bombing over the past month.

The move comes as part of a deal reached with the Syrian regime earlier this month that will see the fighters and families withdraw from the area and head to the rebel-held Idlib province, along with their families, on Sunday.

"Buses entered Wadi Barada overnight to start the transfer of rebel fighters and their families to Idlib," a local source told The New Arab.

Around 1,500 people are expected to leave Wadi Barada, which has been under siege and subject to daily shelling and bombing by pro-regime forces.

Joint spokesman for civil organisations in Wadi Barada, Fuad Abu Khatab, said people who did not want to leave the valley may remain.

"Those who don't want to exit Barada will have the option to stay after speaking with the regime," Khatab told Anadolu on Saturday. 

As part of the deal, rebels can either choose to stay in the area as long as they hand over their weapons or leave to the north-west province of Idlib, the last major bastion of the armed opposition.

On Saturday, regime forces escorted maintenance teams into Wadi Barada to fix damaged water mains that cut off water supply to Damascus.

Around 5.5 million people in Damascus and its suburbs have been without water since fighting intensified in the Wadi Barada area in late December.

The valley hosts about 100,000 Syrians, including those who fled from different parts of Syria to escape fighting and bombing.

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