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Evacuation of 4 Syrian villages starts with prisoner swap

Prisoner swaps between opposition groups and the regime began the process of evacuations from four Syrian villages on Wednesday, Arab48 reported.

Twelve opposition fighters and 19 Syrian regime soldiers were released as part of the exchange.

The two sides reached an agreement last month to evacuated the Sunni residents of Al-Zabadani and Madaya, which has been under a crippling siege for more than two years, in return for the evacuation of Al-Fo'a and Kafraya, which have a majorities Shia population, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

AFP cameraman in Aleppo said that 12 opposition fighters, including nine who were wounded left Al-Fo'a and Kafraya, while eight bodies likely to belong to regime forces and their allies arrived in Aleppo hospitals after they were released by the opposition in Idlib.

Read: Syria opposition 'committed to political solution'

The evacuation of the four villages is expected to take place today, the Syrian Observatory told AFP. The deal has been sponsored by Qatar and Iran.

Eyewitnesses said that buses ready to evacuate residents arrived in Al-Zabadani and Madaya yesterday morning.

According to the deal, all of the 16,000 residents of Al-Fo'a and Kafraya are expected to leave, while the residents of Madaya and Al-Zabadani have the choice either to leave or to stay, the observatory said.

It also said that the deal included evacuation of opposition fighters with their families from the outskirts of Yarmouk refugee camp and other areas in the south of Damascus.

According to the deal, evacuations and the entry of aid must take place simultaneously.

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