Pro-Assad Villages Evacuated In Deal With Syrian Insurgents | 7/19/2018 | Staff
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Two pro-government villages in northwestern Syria were evacuated on Thursday, state television reported, in an agreement between the Damascus government and insurgents who had laid siege to them for several years.

In exchange, the government was due to release hundreds of prisoners from its jails. Pro-Damascus TV stations said at least 20 buses carrying “militants” released from jail had crossed into rebel-held territory under the agreement.

People - Civilians - Fighters - Loyalist - Shi'ite

Close to 7,000 people – civilians and fighters – were due to leave the loyalist Shi’ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province. They were being ferried out in a convoy of buses through rebel-held territory to nearby government-held territory in Aleppo province, state TV footage showed.

Footage broadcast by al-Manar TV, which is run by the pro-Damascus Shi’ite group Hezbollah, showed the buses arriving at a government checkpoint in al-Eis, east of the two villages. Many had smashed windscreens – Al-Manar’s reporter said they had been pelted with rocks as they drove through rebel areas.

Convoy - Buses - Territory - Al-Manar - Reporter

A separate convoy of buses was then shown crossing from al-Eis into the rebel-held territory. Al-Manar’s reporter at the scene said they were carrying detainees released under the deal.

Population transfers have been a common feature of the seven-year war, but have mostly come at the expense of Assad’s opponents. Rebels and civilians have been bussed out of their hometowns to insurgent territory in the north as government troops advanced, backed by Russian and Iranian forces.

Opposition - Policy - Displacement - Change - Assad

The opposition has decried it as a systematic policy of forcible displacement, or “demographic change”, aimed at getting rid of Assad’s opponents.

Assad has vowed to recover the entire country, and Idlib province is the last major insurgent-held part of Syria. The Syrian army and its allies are currently waging a rapidly advancing campaign against rebels in the southwest.

Turkey - Opposition

Turkey, which has supported the anti-Assad opposition,...
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