Middle East

Syria war: Zabadani rebels evacuated in besieged villages deal

Media captionThe BBC's Lina Sinjab said those being evacuated were "anxious, exhausted and desperate"

Hundreds of fighters and civilians in three besieged parts of Syria have been evacuated under a truce deal brokered by the United Nations.

Buses and ambulances ferried at least 120 Sunni rebels and civilians from Zabadani into nearby Lebanon.

At the same time, about 300 fighters and civilians were transported from two Shia villages in the north to Turkey.

Zabadani had been besieged by pro-regime forces, while Sunni rebels had encircled Kefraya and Fuaa for months.

Also on Monday, at least 14 people were killed and 90 wounded in two suicide bombings in the central city of Homs.

Reports said the blasts had hit the Zahraa neighbourhood of the city. It is predominantly inhabited by members of the Alawite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

Under the truce deal, the evacuees from Zabadani will be taken in by Turkey, while those from Fuaa and Kefraya will go on to Lebanon from Turkey, then back to government-held parts of Syria.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Lebanese Red Cross, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the UN were all involved in the operation.

Monday's evacuations are the latest in a series of similar moves:

  • 26 December - An attempt to evacuate rebels, including some from the so-called Islamic State group, from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk outside Damascus collapses shortly before it was due to start
  • 9 December - Rebels leave Homs' Al-Wair district, the last one under their control
  • May 2014 - Hundreds of rebels leave Homs after months of government siege, under a deal brokered by Iran and facilitated by the UN
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lebanon's Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah has seen fighters killed in fighting around Zabadani

Zabadani is the last major rebel stronghold along the Lebanese border. Fighters from the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham and other allied groups had been holding on, but faced almost certain defeat.

Localised ceasefires were at one point were proposed as one of the few ways out of the bloodshed and stalemate.

However, they have failed to build any real momentum, correspondents say.