Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Evacuations begin in four besieged Syrian cities

As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels began a coordinated population swap Friday of about 10,000 people from four towns besieged for years amid the country's bloody, six-year civil war.

Early on Friday morning, hundreds of people from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya began to leave, while similar movements were underway in the rebel-held Madaya.

But residents in Zabadani and Madaya said conditions in their two towns had become too hard to bear. Those who opt to leave with the fighters will head to rebel-held territory in Idlib.

"There are at least 7,500 people expecting to be evacuated, among them are at least 1,500 rebel fighters", he said.

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.

But access has been limited, with food and medical shortages causing malnutrition, illness and even death among besieged residents.

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There are 4.7 million people live in besieged areas in Syria, which is in the seventh year of conflict. It is not clear if nearby Zabadani, included in the deal, is also being evacuated.

"We didn't choose it", he said.

"But of course they're going to go back to their cities after the liberation".

"Talking about demographic changes is not in the sake or in the interest of the Syrian society when it's permanent".

The deal, reached late last month, includes evacuation of rebels and their families from the besieged towns of Madaya and Zabadani, which are under the rebel control northwest of capital Damascus, as well as Kafraya and Foa, both pro-government towns besieged by the rebels.

The evacuation of the four villages is expected to take place today, the Syrian Observatory told AFP.

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