DAMASCUS - More than 2,200 civilians and rebels evacuated an opposition district in Damascus on Sunday, state media said, bringing the government closer to cementing its control over the Syrian capital.

The evacuations from the Qabun district in northeast Damascus follow similar departures from the Barzeh and Tishrin neighbourhoods earlier this week. “The first phase of the agreement in the Qabun district has been completed with the evacuation of 2,289 people, including 1,058 armed men,” Damascus governor Beshr Assaban was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.

He said the aim of the evacuation was to “end the presence of armed forces in the neighbourhood”. An AFP correspondent inside Qabun saw around a dozen white buses carrying out residents and fighters, after a deal for the neighbourhood was announced late Saturday following heavy fighting.

At the edge of the district, two women embraced and wept as they faced the prospect of parting ways. Suad, 22, was leaving behind her friend Mona, also 22, to follow her family to Idlib province, a rebel-held area in northwest Syria.

“I didn’t want to leave, but I have to stay with my family, and they prefer to go to Idlib after my uncle left with the group from Barzeh,” said Suad.  “I never thought one day I’d be in this position,” she added, sobbing heavily. “I can’t describe how I feel.”

Those evacuating carried small bags with them as they boarded the buses, while others who had decided to stay registered their names at a military post.