Hundreds of civilians and fighters who have been under siege for more than two years left four Syrian towns in fleets of buses Friday (April 14th) under an evacuation deal, AFP reported.
The evacuation of the four towns, regime-held Fuaa and Kafraya, and opposition-held Madaya and Zabadani, had been due to start on April 4th, but was repeatedly delayed.
At least 80 buses left Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province, and arrived at a marshalling point in Rashidin, west of regime-held Aleppo, followed by 20 ambulances.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 5,000 people had left the two towns, including 1,300 pro-regime fighters.
A civilian travelling in one of the evacuation buses from the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani said the operation began at around 6 a.m.
"Most of the passengers are women and children who started gathering yesterday evening and spent the night in the cold waiting," Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh told AFP by telephone.
He said that opposition fighters among the evacuees had been allowed to keep their light weapons, and evacuees were all searched when they reached regime-held territory.
The Observatory said 2,200 people from Zabadani and Madaya had left, among them 400 opposition fighters.
More than 30,000 people are expected to be evacuated under the deal, which began on Wednesday with an exchange of prisoners between opposition and regime forces.
All 16,000 residents of Fuaa and Kafraya are expected to leave, heading to regime-held Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia or Damascus.
Civilians from Madaya and Zabadani will reportedly be allowed to remain if they choose. Those who opt to leave will head to opposition-held territory in Idlib.