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First batch of 5,000 Syrians evacuating war-torn town of Daraya, under a new deal

Preparations started on Friday morning for the evacuation in batches that was expected to last four days

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In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images). Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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Damascus, August 27, 2016: The first batch of Syrians on Friday started to leave the besieged town of Daraya under the new deal that allows evacuation of rebel fighters and civilians.

Military vehicles were waiting to escort the buses out of the city, whose landscape is similar to those in the movies depicting the Armageddon, or the doom’s day, Xinhua reported.

Ambulances, as well as convoys from the Syrian Red Crescent, were waiting at a government-held area of the town to evacuate 4,000 civilians and some 700 rebels.

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Preparations started on Friday morning for the evacuation in batches that was expected to last four days, sources said.

Map of Daraya, Syria. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Map of Daraya, Syria. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The evacuation is part of a deal reached on Thursday between the armed rebels and the government army, which allows over 4,000 civilians to be evacuated to displacement shelters in government-controlled areas.

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Meanwhile, 700 rebels will hand over their heavy and medium weapons and move to the northwestern province of Idlib, a stronghold for the rebels’ Jaish al-Fateh, state news agency SANA reported. (IANS)

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India, US Expand Defense Ties By Signing A Deal

The U.S. and India also agreed to hold a new military exercise. The exercise will involve sea, land, and air forces. It will occur of the eastern coast of India in 2019.

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India and us, defense
US, India Ink Deal to Expand Defense Ties Wikimedia Commons.

The United States and India took a major step to expand defense ties Thursday, signing a deal that allows India to acquire high-end U.S. weaponry, including armed drones.

The agreement was signed during a meeting in New Delhi among U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and their Indian counterparts.

The U.S. earlier this year offered armed Guardian drones to India, but the sale could not go through until the agreement, known as COMCASA, was reached.

“The landmark agreement deepens our military to military cooperation and our ability to share the most advanced defense technology, making us both stronger,” Mattis said.

If the Guardian sale goes through, India would become the first non-NATO country to buy armed U.S. drones.

The deal reflects growing ties between the U.S. and India – the world’s two largest democracies – both of whom are concerned about China’s rising power.

Defense cooperation, in particular, has emerged as the “most significant dimension” of the U.S.-India relationship, said Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

 

India and usa,defense
Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis before the start of the 2+2 meeting at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.VOA

 

U.S.-India ties, she said, have reached “unprecedented heights.”

Iran, Russia disagreements

The U.S. and India haven’t always been this close. India, which has historically tried to be neutral in world affairs, has bristled at what it considers U.S. restraints on its foreign policy decisions.

Most recently, the U.S. has taken issue with India’s purchase of oil from Iran and its planned acquisition of a Russian missile defense system. Both moves would violate U.S. sanctions.

A Pentagon official last month threatened to impose sanctions on India if it goes ahead with its $6 billion purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

But in their public comments Thursday, neither side mentioned the Russia or Iran disputes. And the S-400 never came up in private discussions with India’s defense and external affairs ministers, said Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter.

Iran also “wasn’t a big topic,” he said.

Most of India’s weapons are Russian-made, a legacy of India’s Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union. The U.S. is currently India’s second-largest weapons supplier.

India and usa,defense
U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with their counterparts Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman for the 2+2 meeting at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, India. VOA

But U.S. military sales to India have expanded rapidly – going from zero in 2008 to $15 billion this year. That figure now stands to increase, with the new agreement in place.

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“It comes down to trust. Some of this tech is very sensitive. Some countries we don’t want this tech to fall in the hands of,” Felter said, adding the U.S. has similar agreements with less than 30 countries.

The U.S. and India also agreed to hold a new military exercise. The exercise will involve sea, land, and air forces. It will occur of the eastern coast of India in 2019. (VOA)