Middle East

Syrian war: Government regains Darayya after last rebels leave

A woman evacuated from the besieged town of Darayya arrives at a government district Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The final buses left Darayya on Saturday

The Syrian government has retaken control of the town of Darayya, after the last rebels left under a deal ending a four-year siege.

Buses containing the final remaining fighters left on Saturday, and are heading towards rebel-held Idlib city.

BBC Arabic reported that the town, near the capital Damascus, is completely empty of rebels, who handed over their heavy weapons before leaving.

Elsewhere at least 15 people died in barrel bombings in Aleppo, reports say.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two barrel bombs struck minutes apart in a rebel-held part of the city.

The first struck crowds mourning child victims of a similar attack earlier this week, while a second hit crowds that gathered after the first bombing, the monitor said.

The UN's Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has urged the warring sides in the city of Aleppo to approve safe delivery of vital supplies by Sunday.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rebel fighters are travelling towards rebel-held Idlib city

Thousands of civilians have also left Darayya under the agreement, having endured years of constant shelling and shortages of essentials.

The deal is widely seen as a victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, removing a cluster of rebel fighters from close to Damascus.

"The Darayya file is now closed after the evacuation of all the civilians, armed men and their families under the agreement," state media reported.

UK Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said: "We utterly condemn the appalling violence inflicted by the regime on this town" and urged the Syrian government to the UN "immediate humanitarian access to Darayya and to all others in need in Syria".

Turkish tanks meet rebels

Meanwhile Kurdish forces are reported to have clashed with Turkish tanks in northern Syria.

Turkey sent tanks across the border earlier this week to help Syrian rebels capture the town of Jarablus from so-called Islamic State (IS), in a move that was also an attempt to halt Kurdish advances.

The Jarablus Military Council, which is backed by the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, said Turkish air strikes hit several of its positions near Jarablus on Saturday.

It called the raids "a dangerous escalation", and said there had been injuries.

A few hours later, a Turkish soldier was killed and three wounded in a rocket attack on a Turkish army tank near Jarablus. It was not immediately clear who had fired the rocket.

Turkey fears Kurdish forces gaining an unbroken strip of territory along its border, which would be a huge boost to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy in Turkey since the 1980s.

The developments on the ground come amid a fresh diplomatic push on Syria.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Barrel bombs reportedly killed at least 15 people in a rebel-held part of Aleppo
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Elsewhere Turkish tanks have reportedly clashed with Kurdish forces in northern Syria

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov "have achieved clarity on the path forward" on ceasefire discussions, but there were "narrow issues" still to resolve.

The two held talks in Geneva to try to find a way of reviving a cessation of hostilities that faltered months ago.

Mr Lavrov said the pair had "lowered the level of mutual mistrust". Russia and the US have largely backed opposing sides in Syria's civil war.

Discussions between officials from both parties are continuing.