Evacuation deal reached for 4 besieged Syria towns: monitor

Opposition fighters stand near a convoy of vehicles carrying United Nations food and medical aid on the outskirts of the rebel-beseiged town of Kafraya in Syria's Idlib province as they head to deliver aid to Fua and Kafraya which are both under seige by the rebels on March 14, 2017.
AFP

Beirut - Four Syrian towns that have been under crippling siege for more than two years are to be evacuated under a deal reached late on Tuesday, a monitoring group said.

Residents of Zabadani and Madaya, two towns near Damascus under siege by government forces, will leave their homes in return for the evacuation of Fuaa and Kafraya, two mainly Shiite towns in the northwest besieged by the rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the deal was brokered by rebel supporter Qatar and government ally Iran and that Islamist rebels in the northwestern province of Idlib had already signed on.

"The evacuations are not expected to begin until April 4 but, as a goodwill measure, a ceasefire for the towns came into effect overnight," Abdel Rahman said.

"It is calm there now," he added.

The four towns are part of an existing deal reached in 2015 that has seen aid deliveries and evacuations.

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Opposition fighters and aid workers stand near a convoy of vehicles carrying United Nations food and medical aid on the outskirts of the rebel-beseiged town of Kafraya in Syria's Idlib province as they head to deliver aid to Fua and Kafraya which are both under seige by the rebels on March 14, 2017.Photo: AFP

Relief convoys to the four towns are always simultaneous and equal, with the same number of trucks entering at the same time.

A similar stipulation has applied for those being evacuated.

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A convoy of vehicles carrying United Nations food and medical aid travels on the outskirts of the rebel-beseiged town of Kafraya in Syria's Idlib province as they head to deliver aid to Fua and Kafraya, which are both under seige by the rebels, on March 14, 2017.Photo: AFP

More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since the Syrian conflict erupted with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

Multiple attempts to secure a nationwide ceasefire have faltered.

In December, rebel backer Turkey and government ally Russia brokered a cessation of hostilities that aimed to pave the way for more aid deliveries and peace talks, but fighting has continued across swathes of the country.

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