1,500 evacuated from Damascus suburbs as major opposition group rejects Geneva-2
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said in a statement on its
Facebook page that people were evacuated amid the fierce clashes
in Moadamiyet al-Sham, west of the Syrian capital.
The civilians, most of whom were women and children, were safely
relocated into shelters in the countryside near Damascus, the
Local media quoted by Xinhua said the evacuation came after the
Syrian army opened routes for civilians to leave the suburban
hotspot. SARC, which often works in tough security conditions and
has lost 22 of its members in the Syrian conflict, sent its
volunteers to get the people out to a safe place.
Meanwhile, six aid workers of the International Committee of the
Red Cross and a member of the Syrian Red Crescent were kidnapped
on Sunday afternoon in the Syrian province of Idlib, ICRC
spokesman Ewan Watson told AFP.
This comes as the prospect of Geneva-2 peace negotiations is
overshadowed by the latest split in the Syrian opposition, with
the Syrian National Council (SNC) announcing it will not take
part in the talks.
The Istanbul-based group has 22 of the 60 seats of the National
Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces,
commonly referred to as the Syrian National Coalition.
“The Syrian National Council, which is the biggest bloc in the
Coalition, has taken the firm decision... not to go to Geneva,
under the present circumstances [on the ground],” the group’s
president George Sabra told AFP.
Sabra then threatened the SNC “will not stay in the
Coalition,” if it decides to go to Geneva.
“Nothing useful will come out for Syrians from attending the
meeting,” he added to RIA Novosti, citing the
“lackluster” international response to the consequences of
the Syrian war, including the chemical weapons use, as the cause
for the Council’s decision.
The opposition group has always been firm in its stand not to
enter any talks unless Syrian President Bashar Assad is toppled.
However, the announcement comes just a day before the US
Secretary of State John Kerry’s London meeting with the UN and
Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, where preparations
for the Geneva-2 meeting will be discussed.
Brahimi has been trying to persuade the opposition to come up
with a delegation for the talks as Russia and the US have been
pushing for the conflicting Syrian sides to get to the
Although the exact date of the proposed Geneva-2 conference is
yet to be announced by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, both
Moscow and Washington have mentioned mid-November as a
possibility for the talks.
The UN chief last month praised the Syrian National Coalition
president Ahmed Jarba’s “commitment to send a delegation to
the Geneva Conference,” and urged him “to reach out to
other opposition groups and agree on a representative and united
The Syrian government has repeatedly said it will go to the
Geneva-2 conference without preconditions.
However, the notion of any talks with President Assad’s regime is
rejected by the armed rebel forces fighting on the ground.
Some of the most powerful rebel groups also rejected the foreign-based Syrian opposition altogether. Thirteen rebel groups, including a division of the Free Syrian Army and more radical Islamists, stated that “all groups formed abroad without having returned to the country do not represent us” and called to unite under an “Islamic framework based on Sharia law.”