World Bulletin / News Desk
Hundreds of civilians and fighters who have been under crippling siege for more than two years left four Syrian towns in fleets of buses Friday under a delayed evacuation deal.
Critics say the population movements are permanently changing the ethnic and religious map, but President Bashar al-Assad insisted they were only temporary and people would return to their homes once the "terrorists" had been defeated.
The evacuation of the four towns -- two besieged by the army, and two by the rebels -- had been due to start on April 4.
But implementation of the deal brokered by rebel supporter Qatar and regime ally Iran late last month was repeatedly delayed.
At least 80 buses left the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province in the northwest.
They arrived at a marshalling point in Rashidin, west of government-held second city Aleppo, followed by 20 ambulances.
Most of the evacuees from the two mainly Shiite towns were women, children or elderly people.
The pro-government Al Watan newspaper said 5,000 people were on board the buses. It said 3,000 more were to follow in a second convoy on Friday night.
Dozens of rebel fighters, including Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, Fateh al-Sham Front, stood guard at the marshalling point.
afpGüncelleme Tarihi: 14 Nisan 2017, 11:49