Evacuation deal reached for four Syrian towns

2017-03-29 18:10
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Beirut - Four Syrian towns are to be evacuated under an agreement between pro-government forces and rebels, in the latest of a series of deals to end crippling years-long sieges.

The agreement, brokered by rebel supporter Qatar and regime ally Iran, is expected to involve more than 30 000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The deal involves Zabadani and Madaya, besieged by regime fighters near Damascus and Shiiite-majority Fuaa and Kafraya in northwest Syria that are encircled by rebels.

Struck a bus

Such evacuations have been touted by President Bashar al-Assad as a way to end his country's six-year war, but his opponents say the regime is redrawing Syria's map with forced displacement.

The conflict has killed more than 320 000 people and forced millions more from their homes.

In the central city of Homs, where evacuations from the last rebel-held district resumed last month, a bomb struck a bus on Wednesday, killing five people, state media said.

The Observatory, a British-based monitor, said the residents of Zabadani, Madaya, Fuaa, and Kafraya are to quit their homes over the course of 60 days starting next week.

All of the residents of Fuaa and Kafraya are expected to leave, while it was unclear if the evacuations of Madaya and Zabadani would empty the towns completely.

Part of the Yarmuk Palestinian camp south of Damascus is also to be evacuated.

Islamist rebels in the northwest province of Idlib have approved the deal, under which 32 000 people are expected to be evacuated, said Abdel Raman.

Aid deliveries

Hassan Sharaf, who is co-ordinating the deal on behalf of the government, said a total of 16 000 people would quit Fuaa and Kafraya "in two waves.

"Everyone will be evacuated. They will be transported by ground via Aleppo, then to Latakia and Damascus," he said. 

At least 600 000 people are living under siege in Syria, according to the United Nations, with another four million people in so-called "hard-to-reach" areas.

The four towns are part of an existing deal reached in 2015 that has seen simultaneous evacuations and aid deliveries, the last of which took place in November.

Read more on:    un  |  syrian observatory for human rights  |  bashar al-assad  |  lebanon  |  syria conflict

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