Syrian rebels evacuated under United Nations deal
They said more than 125 fighters from the besieged rebel-held town of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon were en route to Beirut airport, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
From Turkey they were to travel on to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Simultaneously around 300 families from two besieged towns in a rebel-held area in Idlib province would go to Turkey and fly to Beirut from there.
Dozens of relatives welcomed them at the Masnaa border crossing in Lebanon’s Bekaa, cheering as they arrived and waving the three-star flag of the Syrian opposition.
A plane carrying 126 rebel fighters trapped in Zabadani near the Lebanese border landed at nearly the same time in Turkey, the sources said.
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. That deal saw the Syrian government allow fighters to withdraw with their weapons from the last besieged neighborhood in the city in exchange for a return to government control and supplies to beleaguered citizens.
Iran, which backs President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, helped organize local ceasefires in Zabadani and the two villages in Idlib in September in the first phase of the deal overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Although he was part of the deal, one of the Syrian opposition fighters that was evacuated from Fuaa village was rejected by the Lebanese Army and could not leave the region, an İHH official told Hürriyet Daily News. From Turkey, they will travel to Beirut and then on to the Syrian capital Damascus. Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters there set off fireworks in celebration. A wounded fighter was carried on a stretcher into a Syrian Arab Red Crescent ambulance that was expected to ferry him to the border where he will be given to the Lebanese Red Cross.
The station had provided coverage earlier of bearded fighters wearing military-style fatigues boarding the buses amid bombed-out ruins in Zabadani.
Zabadani, which lies in Syria’s mountanious Qalamoun area, had been the focus of an offensive by Hezbollah and the Syrian army against insurgent groups.
Similar ceasefire deals have been implemented in other parts of the country throughout Syria’s war, often after crippling sieges of rebel-held areas.