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Fears for 'trapped' Syrian civilians

Source BBC News@

The BBC's Lyse Doucet was there to witness thousands of Syrians fleeing their home after nine months under siege

There are fears many civilians may still be trapped in a besieged suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, despite thousands being allowed to leave.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet, who witnessed the exodus, says the government believes only rebel fighters remain in the suburb of Moadamiya.

But she says there are unconfirmed reports thousands more civilians are too frightened to leave.

At least three Damascus suburbs have been besieged by the army for months.

'Armed groups'

The civilians who left were allowed out through an evacuation negotiated between the government and opposition fighters who control the area.

Hundreds of women and children spent last night in a government-run shelter.

Officials with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent told our correspondent that families could stay for as long as one month.

Some will join relatives elsewhere, others have no other place to go.

A tide of people fled Moadamiya on Tuesday - some on stretchers, some crying, all showing the severe strain of a life under siege.

"We didn't see a piece of bread for nine months," one woman told me. "We were eating leaves and grass."

A little girl in a pink dress showed me her trembling hands. "We are all sick," she said, as she and her little sister clutched pieces of bread distributed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society.

Some 20 buses were waiting at the entrance to Moadamiya to take residents to a government shelter.

But men, young and old, were kept in a separate queue. They will now be questioned about what side they are on, and what their involvement was in the fight.

The government says all civilians have now left the besieged area, with only what it calls "terrorists" staying behind.

Kinda al-Shamamat, the Syrian minister for social affairs, said whoever stayed behind was the enemy.

She said: "Inside al-Moadamiya there is armed groups. They are terrorists. Now we take the civilians to safe places. And then those people are not our responsibility, they are terrorists."

But our correspondent says that one activist the BBC reached by Skype said thousands of civilians were still trapped inside, too frightened to leave.

He said that, despite assurances of safe passage, many men who left were now in detention.

Our correspondent says she is unable to verify his claims, but what is clear is the siege is not over.

Supplies in Moadamiya had been running desperately short, and residents had pleaded to be saved from starvation.

The Syrian army had previously said that rebel-held areas of Damascus such as Moadamiya could surrender or starve.

At least two other Damascus suburbs - Yarmouk and Eastern Ghouta - have also been besieged by government forces for several months.

The situation had become so desperate that, earlier this month, Muslim clerics issued a religious ruling allowing people to eat cats, dogs and donkeys just to survive.

Those animals are usually considered unfit for human consumption in Islam.

For months, the UN and other aid agencies have been calling for urgent help, fearing the worst for the people of Moadamiya.

"We didn't see a piece of bread for nine months," one woman told the BBC. "We were eating leaves and grass."

People walk from the rebel-held suburb of Moadamiya to government-held territory, helped by aid workersThe people of Moadamiya were running short of food and water

A volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent helps a weeping man Moadamiya has been under siege and heavy bombardment since March - with no one able to get in or out

Woman held by Red Crescent workersSome were too ill to walk, and had to be assisted by Red Crescent workers

Syrian families leave their besieged townMost of those trapped were women and children

Men wait to be searched by the Syrian militaryThe men were taken to a separate area, to be searched by the military

Men wait to be searched by the Syrian militaryThe army wants to check if any of these men were fighting on the rebels' side

Meanwhile, Syria's Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, was dismissed on Tuesday for leaving the country and acting without government permission, state media said.

Mr Jamil met US officials in Geneva over the weekend to discuss peace negotiations, according to UN and Middle East officials.

But the state news agency Sana said Mr Jamil had been dismissed by President Bashar al-Assad "because he left his centre of work without prior permission and did not follow up on his duties".

"Additionally, he undertook activities outside the nation without co-ordinating with the government," Sana said.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the fighting that has ravaged Syria for two-and-a-half years, according to the UN.

A further two million people have fled Syria and some 4.5 million have been displaced internally.

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

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