12:40 GMT29 September 2020
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    The mass evacuation of thousands of people from two Syrian villages in the northwest of the country has begun, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    Head of the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov said on Wednesday that over 7,000 civilians have been evacuated from the besieged settlements of Foua and Kefraya in northern Idlib province under the agreement between militants and the Syrian government.

    "The representatives of the Russian and Iranian sides, in cooperation with the Syrian government, reached an agreement with the leaders of illegal armed formations on the evacuation of civilians from the besieged Shiite settlements of Fua and Kefraya in Idlib province. Under the agreement, about 7,000 people left the settlements," the official said.

    This photo provided on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Civil Defense workers inspecting a damages building after a bombing that targeted the office of Ajnad al-Koukaz, a militant group consisting of foreign fighters mostly from the Caucuses and Russia, in Idlib, Syria
    © AP Photo / Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets
    The Shiite-populated settlements of Foua and Kefraya have long been the only strongholds under government control in the militant-dominated Idlib. The towns of some 20,000 people have been under siege since 2013; the humanitarian situation has become dire as aid convoys have been prevented from reaching the towns.

    In March, the Syrian authorities reached an agreement with the country's armed opposition factions on  the evacuation of civilians from Foua and Kefraya in exchange for the evacuation of militants and their families from Zabadani and Madaya to Idlib.

    Russia, alongside Iran and Turkey, is a guarantor of the ceasefire regime in Syria. Moscow has also been assisting Damascus, both through supporting the struggle against terrorist groups and by providing humanitarian aid to the residents of the crisis-torn country.


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    evacuation, ceasefire, Foua, Kefraya, Idlib, Syria
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