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EVACUATION STARTS IN FOUR BESIEGED TOWNS IN SYRIA

DAMASCUS, Syria, Apr 13 (NNN-SANA) - Rebels and pro-government forces swapped prisoners and detainees on Wednesday, as part of a major evacuation deal reached under the mediation of Qatar and Iran, well-informed sources said.

The rebels in the north-western province of Idlib released four children and eight women they kidnapped, from the Shiite towns of Kafraya and Foa, and returned the bodies of eight government forces, in exchange for the release of 19 rebels detained by the pro-government fighters in Kafraya and Foa.

The low-scale swap took place through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

The deal, reached late last month, should see the evacuation of rebels and their families from the besieged towns of Madaya and Zabadani, which are under the rebel control north-west of the capital Damascus, as well as the two Shiite towns of Kafraya and Foa, both pro-government towns, besieged by the rebels in the north-western province of Idlib.

Madaya and Zabdani are two towns under the rebel groups' control, near the Lebanese border. The government besieged the towns two years ago, allowing few aid convoys to enter, under the supervision of humanitarian organisations in coordination with the SARC.

In the north, Kafraya and Foa are two Shiite towns besieged by the rebels in Idlib, which has largely fallen to rebel control, mainly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

According to the deal, around 3,800 rebels and their families should leave the towns of Madaya, Zabadani and nearby towns towards Idlib, the source said, adding that, the rebels in Idlib will allow 8,000 people from the two Shiite towns to leave.

The deal went into force near midnight Wednesday, but some delays happened as the rebels in Idlib fired on the SARC busses near Kafraya and Foa, the source said.

The source said, 92 busses are now ready at the entrance of Zabadani and Madaya, waiting for the evacuation.

Several previous deals saw the evacuation of people from Kafraya and Foa, as well as Zabadani and Madaya, but the current deal seems a comprehensive one, that will see a large-scale evacuations from all the people in the four towns.

The UN has repeatedly warned of the dire situation in those towns, and the lack of humanitarian access to around 60,000 affected people in the four towns.-- NNN-SANA

Source: NAM News Network