Evacuations from besieged pro-regime towns complete in Syria

21 July, 2018, 19:53 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Some 6,000 people will leave emptying out the mostly Shiite villages of Al Foua and Kefraya. — Reuters

Iran, which backs President Bashar al Assad against the mainly Sunni insurgents and has expanded its military role in the country, has long taken a interest in the fate of its co-religionists in the two-besieged towns.

The sieges have seen food and medical supplies run desperately low, with rebels - mostly from the jihadi Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance - periodically shelling the villages.

Surrounded and bombed by hostile factions, the towns had become a rallying cry for the government and its ally Iran.

The evacuation deal is not the first that has been reached for the area.

Starting early Wednesday, a series of barricades on the road leading into the town were removed to let dozens of vehicles in, an AFP correspondent there said.

Government forces raised the Syrian flag over the large Daraa suburb of Busra al-Sham, after rebel fighters agreed to be evacuated to Idlib.

Armed HTS militants stood on the roadside as the convoy of evacuees inched past, with pro-regime militiamen and regular civilians sitting solemnly on board and staring ahead.

"As the buses entered government-held areas, the government started releasing detainees, as per the deal", Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Ambulances reportedly transporting prisoners realeased from regime jails.

Around 6,000 people will leave the area on 88 buses in a deal brokered by rebels and Iranian-backed forces.

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But the evacuation of the remaining 7,000 people in al-Foua and Kefraya in exchange for the release of 1,500 detainees prisoners never went through.

An HTS source said the group's fighters had entered the towns after the evacuation was complete.

Those forces had allowed the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver aid to the towns in exchange for similar deliveries to two regime-besieged towns near Damascus. Residents of a third town, Ishtabrak, are being evacuated to the coastal region of Latakia.

In April 2017, 112 people from both towns were killed while reaching a rebel-held area in Aleppo, when rebels detonated a vehicle bomb near the buses transporting them.

The April evacuation was halted after a blast killed 150 people, including 72 children.

These areas were captured by the regime following local deals and punishing military offensives.

Thousands of people will be evacuated from two besieged pro-government towns in Syria in exchange for the release of prisoners held in government jails, a monitor said on Tuesday.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

The militant-held towns of Zabadani and Madaya near the Lebanese border are under siege by Syrian government forces.

Both victories followed crushing government sieges and heavy bombardment. Assad has vowed to recover the entire country, and Idlib province is the last major insurgent-held part of Syria.

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