The evacuation of 6,000 people from a regime enclave in Idlib Province in northwest Syria began on Wednesday, following a deal between the jihadist bloc Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and pro-Assad forces.
Dozens of buses entered al-Fu’ah and Kafraya, northwest of Idlib city. In return, the regime released 1,500 civilians and rebels from prisons.
“What are we going to do with our land and property? Oh, my hometown,” a 42-year-old man who wished to remain anonymous said. “I pray this will go well.”
An evacuation deal was initially reached in April 2017, as residents and rebels were removed from Madaya and Zabadani in Damascus Province. However, the transfer from the regime enclaves was halted after a convoy was attacked in western Aleppo Province, killing about 150 people, including 72 children.
Almost all of Idlib Province has been held since spring 2015 by the opposition. While Turkey has set up a ring of observation posts around the province, the Assad regime — which, enabled by Russia and Iranian-backed forces, has seized almost all opposition territory near Damascus and in the south of the country — is threatening an offensive.
Local sources say at least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in two days of bombardment of towns in Daraa Province in southern Syria.
There were more than 100 air raids on and near Nawa, near the highway from Damascus to the Jordanian border, on Wednesday. The town’s only hospital has been knocked out of service, and only one ambulance can carry the injured.
Khaled Solh, head of the local White Helmets, said 14 killings had been documented, including that of one of the last doctors, and at least 150 people have been wounded.
Enabled by Russian airstrikes, pro-Assad forces have taken much of Daraa Province, the site of the March 2011 uprising, in an offensive which began June 2019. Attacks also began last week on neighboring Quneitra Province, close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Activist Selma Mohammed said yesterday’s attacks on Nawa focused on nearby areas, making any attempt to use the road to the M5 highway a deadly risk.
With about 100,000 people, Nawa is the largest remaining center for the opposition in southern Syria.