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Evacuations begin from blockaded Syrian towns

The evacuation of 250 people from two Syrian towns blockaded by pro-government forces began after an agreement was reached

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The evacuation of 250 people from two Syrian towns blockaded by pro-government forces began on Wednesday, a witness told Reuters, after an agreement was reached which also allows for another 250 people to leave two towns blocked off by rebels.

The Hezbollah-controlled TV station al-Manar reported the agreement earlier on Wednesday.

The towns blockaded by pro-government forces are Zabadani and Madaya, near the Lebanese border. Those blockaded by rebels are al-Foua and Kefraya in the northwestern Idlib province, both predominantly Shiite and loyal to the government.

A Syrian Arab Red Crescent car leaving Madaya and Zabadani came under rebel fire but there were no casualties, a witness told Reuters. The Lebanese TV station al Mayadeen also reported the Red Crescent convoy had come under rebel fire.

Residents of Madaya and Zabadani will be taken to the rebel-held Syrian town of Idlib, the witness said.

Pro-opposition TV station Orient News showed coaches with Red Crescent markings lined up for inspection before heading to al-Foua and Kefraya. Orient said residents from the towns would be taken to the Damascus countryside area and the government-controlled city of Latakia.

The warring sides agreed a local ceasefire for the four towns in September, but the agreement has not been fully implemented.