A deal on the evacuation of fighters from several besieged towns in Syria has gone through, with hundreds of fighters and their families successfully evacuated from two Shi’ite towns in Idlib and from the border town of Zabadani, near Lebanon.
The rebels in Zabadani, 126 according to officials, crossed into Lebanon before being flown to southern Turkey under the deal. The 330 Shi’ites were evacuated from the Idlib towns to the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where they were welcomed by Hezbollah.
Zabadani had been a major rebel holding on the border, used to smuggle arms in earlier in the war, and the site of several clashes between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda forces. The Idlib Province is dominated by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front now, and the evacuated towns were the last Shi’ite towns therein.
Several deals have been in place since September allowing for evacuations of those towns in several parts. Today’s withdrawals appear to mark the end of those pullouts, putting Zabadani in the military’s hands and the Idlib towns in control of the al-Qaeda coalition.
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