In Syria Residents, fighters evacuate from four besieged towns

The evacuation deal was brokered by Qatar, negotiating on behalf of the rebels, and Iran, on behalf of the government, in March.

The two sides reached an agreement last month to evacuated the Sunni residents of Al-Zabadani and Madaya, which has been under a crippling siege for more than two years, in return for the evacuation of Al-Fo'a and Kafraya, which have a majorities Shia population, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Dozens of buses entered the areas on Wednesday but by late Thursday people had not boarded them, according to opposition activists in the rebel-held towns.

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.

Critics have claimed the deal is a forced replacement and the United Nations is not supervising the evacuations. No buses had yet left the town, but that evacuation was expected to begin later on Friday.

A member of one of the Shi'ite parties said 60 buses were moving through the town of al-Foua.




This April 12, 2017, photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria.

About 5,000 people were being transported from the Shi'ite villages, and more than 2,000 from Madaya.

Madaya and Zabadani, which are predominantly Sunni, have meanwhile been besieged since June 2015 by the Syrian army and fighters from Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement.

Russia's intervention around 18 months ago has helped him gain the upper hand militarily, despite diplomatic pressure and support for the rebels by Western and Gulf Arab states.

An evacuation deal for rebel fighters from Aleppo also involved insurgents allowing people to leave al-Foua and Kefraya.

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