April 20, 2016 / 8:02 AM / 2 years ago

Evacuation from blockaded Syrian towns begins, witness says

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The evacuation of 250 Syrians from two towns blockaded by pro-government forces near the Lebanese border began on Wednesday, a witness told Reuters, after an agreement was reached which also allowed for another 250 people to leave two other towns blocked off by Syrian rebels in northwestern Syria.

Rebel fighters escort a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy heading towards the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

The Hezbollah-controlled TV station al-Manar reported the agreement earlier on Wednesday.

The towns at the Lebanese border blockaded by pro-government forces are Zabadani and Madaya. Those blockaded by rebels are al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, both predominantly Shi’ite and loyal to the government.

One Syrian Arab Red Crescent car leaving Madaya and Zabadani came under rebel fire but there were no casualties, a witness told Reuters. Lebanese TV station al Mayadeen also reported the Red Crescent convoy had come under rebel fire.

Residents of Madaya and Zabadani will be taken to the rebel-held Syrian town of Idlib, not over the border to nearby Lebanon, the witness said.

The warring sides agreed a local ceasefire for the four towns in September, though the agreement has not been fully implemented.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Marwan Makdesi in Damascus, writing by Tom Perry, editing by Larry King

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