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Damascus suburb evacuation deal suspended after regime breaks agreement

Al-Waer in Homs also saw more deportations on Thursday [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2017

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Syrian opposition officials say they are suspending a deal to transfer civilians out of a northern Damascus suburb after the regime went back on the deal by not releasing detainees.
A deal which would see rebel fighters and civilians leave their homes in the northern Damascus suburbs has been put on hold, after the Syrian regime went back on an agreement to release detainees, opposition media reported on Thursday.

Barzeh is the latest district of the rebel-held Damasus suburbs to strike a deal with the regime, which would see civilians and fighters leave the neighbourhood for opposition area in northern Syria.

This deal was frozen by the local council after the regime refused to release detainees, a key stipulation in the agreement, Orient News reported.

The prisoners should have been released when the first batch of civilians left their homes on Monday for Jarabalus, but so far none of the detainees promised have been freed.

Reports said that regime troops prevented students in Damascus from returning to their homes Barzeh, to put pressure on the opposition side to continue the evacuations.

A number of besieged opposition councils across the country have agreed to so-called "evacuation deals" with the regime in recent months, after crippling blockades on rebel enclaves left residents without food or medicine.

The "starve and kneel" tactic and the sieges have been condemned by NGOs and the UN.

But the brutal regime assault on rebel-held East Aleppo late last year put more pressure on opposition councils to agree to such deals and avoid a similar such fate for their neighbourhoods.

Abu Bahaa, the head of Barzeh council, confirmed to Syria Direct that the deal was on hold, and that local students have prevented from returning to their homes by the regime side.

"Even now, students are trapped outside Barzeh, staying with their friends [in Damascus," he told Syria Direct.

"If this continues we will not see any further rounds of evacuations in the coming days a result of the terms of the agreement not being fulfilled."

Abu Bahaa said that despite the negotiations are frozen and not suspended, and the evacuations will recommence when the regime abides to its side of the agreement.

"As long as the negotiations are suspended - not completely halted - I'm not worried that there will be renewed fighting. I don’t see that as a possibility. We think that this agreement will continue," he said.

"It's in the regime's interest to stick to the terms of the agreement and release the detainees so the agreement can continue."

Other areas are being evacauated such as the rebel-held Homs' district of al-Waer, which saw another batch of civilians leave the central Syrian city on Thursday.

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