Syrian deal to evacuate tens of thousands of people begins

By day and by night, thousands of civilians and fighters continue to be evacuated from four besieged towns in Syria under a deal struck between the Assad regime and rebels.

The SOHR said at least 2,100 residents, including rebel fighters, are due to be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya and transported to Idlib.

According to CNN, the blast outside of Rashidin, a suburb of Aleppo, struck buses of people who were leaving their towns as part of a rebel-regime swap.

Some 2,200 people from the town, including about 400 fighters, headed toward Idlib province in northern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.

The government siege of Madaya, one of the rebel-held towns that was evacuated today, gained global attention early previous year after reports that residents were "eating leaves, grass and pets to survive", as The Two-Way reported.

While talks often begin with extensive demands from the rebel side, these have been whittled down by repeated government airstrikes, as well as pressure from civilians who blame the rebels in part for prolonging their suffering.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, and its implications for the broader deal - determining the future of some 30,000 Syrians across four towns - was unclear.

Those killed in Saturday's attack included civilians and pro-regime fighters who had left their homes in the Idlib province towns of Fua and Kafraya, which had for years been besieged by opposition rebels.

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He said: "The people are restless".

They have been touted by the regime as the best way to end the fighting but rebels say they are forced out by siege and bombardment.

Russia, Syria and Iran have strongly warned the United States against launching new strikes on Syria. "We're pitiful and irate about what has happened". The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 43, adding that it would likely rise because of the extensive damage.

Food has been distributed but those on board the buses do not have access to toilets.

Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh, speaking from a departing bus, told AFP that rebels among the evacuees had been allowed to keep light weapons.

In Madaya, residents were given the option to stay and "reconcile" their status with government authorities.

The UN says 4.72 million Syrians are in hard-to-reach areas, including 600,000 people under siege, mostly by the Syrian army, but also by rebels or the ISIS militant group.

There has been a series of evacuations in recent month, mostly around the capital Damascus but also from the last rebel-held district of Syria's third city Homs. The country has since descended into a harsh civil war.

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