Hundreds of militants being evacuated from three Syrian villages
Hundreds of militants fighting against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad have been given safe passage by Damascus to evacuate three villages under a UN-brokered deal.
More than 120 militants were being evacuated from the village of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A convoy of buses and ambulances were taking the militants and their families, along with those who were wounded, to the Beirut airport and then reportedly to Turkey.
At the same time, about “335 people” are being evacuated from Fuaa and Kefraya, two villages in the northern province of Idlib that have been under siege by the militants, the rights group said. They are being taken to Turkey from where they will leave for Lebanon and then return to government-held areas in Syria.
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said several organizations, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Lebanese Red Cross as well as the UN, were involved in transferring the various groups of people.
The evacuations take place under a UN deal that was agreed in September. The UN and foreign governments have tried to broker local ceasefires and safe-passage agreements as steps toward the wider goal of ending the conflict in Syria.
Damascus has previously agreed to several ceasefires with militant groups.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011.Since then, Syrian forces have been battling militants on different fronts throughout the Arab country. More than 250,000 people have died in Syria since the beginning of the nearly five-year conflict.