The city of Idlib, Syria has been preparing for the arrival of evacuees from opposition-controlled Zabadani
BEIRUT (AFP) – Civilians and fighters began evacuating four towns besieged by rebels and government forces Friday under a deal brokered by opposition backer Qatar and regime ally Iran, an AFP correspondent and a local source said.An AFP correspondent in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo city, said at least 80 buses arrived in the region from government-held Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province?. A rebel source in Idlib told AFP “the implementation of the deal started in the morning”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the beginning of the evacuation.
Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh, who spoke to AFP on the phone from one of the buses leaving opposition-controlled Madaya and Zabadani at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT), said: “We just left now, around 2,200 persons in around 65 buses”.
More than 30,000 people are expected to be evacuated under the deal, which began on Wednesday with an exchange of prisoners between rebels and government forces.
All 16,000 residents of Fuaa and Kafraya are expected to leave, heading to government-held Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia or Damascus. Civilian residents of Madaya and Zabadani will reportedly be allowed to remain if they choose.
© AFP file photo | A Syrian army barricade on the outskirts of Madaya.
Syrian Deal to Evacuate Tens of Thousands of People Begins
BEIRUT — The Syrian government and the opposition have begun a coordinated population swap of tens of thousands of people from four besieged towns.
Activists including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses carrying rebels began leaving the rebel-held towns Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus on Friday morning in the first phase of the deal, which will also see the evacuation of residents from two pro-government Shiite villages in northern Syria.
Dozens of buses entered the areas Wednesday but by late Thursday people had not boarded them, according to opposition activists in the rebel-held towns.
If the evacuations are completed, they would be the first in number of rounds stretching over two months to evacuate some 30,000 Syrians from besieged areas, in a deal struck by rebels and the government.