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Syria’s Besieged Towns Evacuation Proceeds as Five-city Deal Resumes Operation

Friday 14 April 2017
Syria’s Besieged Towns Evacuation Proceeds as Five-city Deal Resumes Operation

Alwaght- First stage of a deal to evacuate residents of the besieged Al-Fu'ah and Kafriya towns in Syria’s Idlib province has gone into effect.

The Syrian opposition news outlets have said that under to the government-opposition deal, dubbed five-city deal, nearly 8,000 thousand residents of the two towns who have been under siege of the militant groups for over two years will leave for the government-controlled northern city of Aleppo and in exchange about 4,000 armed opposition fighters will move to Idlib.

The news reports also said that 19 terrorists held by the popular committees in Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya will be released and the opponents will deliver to the government bodies of 7 residents as well as a number of kidnapped citizens from the two towns.

The implementation of the deal has been underway since last Tuesday midnight. According to the swap deal terms, only on Wednesday 3,800 armed fighters along with their families moved from a set of towns in Damascus outskirts including Madaya, Al-Zabadani, and Eastern Jabal to Idlib.

The exchange deal in Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya, which remain blocked by the terrorists in Idlib, was resumed after the Syrian Army liberated Aleppo from the terrorists. But violations, including rocket firing by the militants, have prevented the process from being completed. During the years of blockade, the fighters have blocked any entry of the Syrian Red Crescent to provide medical service and other aids to the two towns' residents.

The evacuated opposition fighters will fully leave Damascus outskirts which are held by the army. Their destination Idlib is held by their fellow opposition fighters as well as terrorist factions.

The London-based Arab language Rai al-Youm website has reported that the popular committees in Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya freed 19 opposition fighters under the supervision of the country’s Red Crescent. The prisoner swap deal also saw releasing of 19 captive Syrian army soldiers.

A source familiar with the deal has said that on Tuesday night 19 captive terrorists were freed and in exchange the opposite side handed in bodies of 7 people and released a number of kidnapped women, children, and old men from Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya.

The same source noted that in upcoming hours 120 buses will leave Aleppo's Ramouseh neighborhood to evacuate the residents of the two towns.

The opposition-run Enabbaladi.net news website has called the agreement “five-city deal”– covering Al-Zabadani, Madaya, Bloudan, Al-Fu’ah, and Kafriya–, claiming that the terms of the accord between Damascus government and its opponents will also see releasing of 1,500 opposition prisoners.

The same website also added that the process has already began and is expected to expand the ceasefire to the Damascus's southern districts, among them the Yarmouk refugee camp.

Furthermore, the website said that Idlib areas including Taftanaz, Banesh, Ram Hamdan, Shalakh, and Brouma, will be subject to a 9-month truce that will see cessation of all artillery shelling and airstrikes.

Enabbaladi.net also maintained that the residents of Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya will be evacuated in two phases started yesterday and will last until Wednesday.

Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya together have an estimated number of 15,000 residents, living under the terrorists' blockade for over two years. Before the the onset of crisis in 2011, they had over 30,000 residents.

All this information is appearing on the media while so far neither the Syrian government nor any other official side have confirmed such an agreement between Damascus and the opposition, however.

On March 28, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-run body providing daily reports on the developments of the conflict inside the country, reported that the government reached a deal with the opposition that will see evacuation of residents of Al-Zabadani and Madaya in exchange for evacuation of residents of Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya.

The Observatory's report confirmed that the armed opposition fighters along with the civilians will be allowed to leave their homes to Idlib and the same will happen to the Al-Fu’ah and Karriya people who are scheduled to move to Aleppo.

The deal is the latest in a series of government's agreements with opposition, though recent battlefield developments have precluded their implementation.

So far, within several rounds– the last one happened after Aleppo liberation in late December 2016– a number of Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya residents including the patients, children, and the elderly, were allowed to leave in return for the government’s same permission for the opposition fighters.

The reports suggest that it has been hours since buses arrived at the Al-Zabadani gates to evacuate the opposition, but the terrorists do not allow the other buses to enter Al-Fu’ah and Karriya.

At the same time, the Syrian media, quoting local outlets, said the negotiation committees of Jaysh al-Fatah and Lebanon's Hezbollah made developments on finalization of swap deal.

The local media reported that the agreement is proceeding with Qatari mediation. According to the deal, the militants of Al-Zabadani, Bloudan, and Madaya will be allowed to go wherever they choose, but if they decide to remain, the government will not prosecute them. Some sources put the number of terrorists who will be freed from the government’s prisons at 1,500.

During the ongoing siege of Al-Fu’ah and Kafriya, the residents, majorly Shiites, have received the aids through airdropping. They have been deprived of the most basic living and medical requirements.

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Syria Swap Deal Al-Fo’ua Kafriya Terrorists Blockade

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