Evacuations from besieged pro-regime towns complete in Syria
21 July, 2018, 19:53 | Author: Wade Massey
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.
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.
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