File - A man is searched by a Syrian soldier as he arrived from the rebel held suburb of Moadamiyeh to the government held territory Tuesday Oct. 29, 2013 in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
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Qusai Zakarya (a nom de guerre) is an opposition media activist and local council member in besieged Moadamieh, a rebel-held area in southwest Damascus.The town has been under an intense government siege for close to a year. As well as coming under heavy government shelling and "barrel bomb" attacks, passage of food into the neighborhood has been tightly restricted in what opposition activists describe as a "starvation campaign" to break the will of the rebels. About a dozen deaths from malnutrition have been reported. In October, the Syrian government announced a cease-fire agreement had been reached and reported that some 1,800 civilians had been evacuated to safety in exchange for the handover of heavy weapons. Opposition activists accuse the government of arresting and killing the evacuees after announcing the cease-fire.Speaking via Skype from Moadamieh, Zakarya, who has been involved in negotiations with the regime for the truce, describes how the government is using locally brokered cease-fires in besieged neighborhoods to win back territory in the lead-up to international peace talks – and why the rebels have submitted.
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