The large blast that targeted Syrian evacuation convoys on Saturday and killed at least dozens of residents who were evacuated from the rebel-besieged towns of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province under a deal reached between the Syrian government and rebels, has brought the focus back to the evacuation deals signed between the Syrian regime and opposition armed groups.
Since 2014, the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups have reached a series of reconciliation agreements in a number of besieged areas, mainly aiming at allowing armed opposition fighters to leave government-besieged cities and town to opposition-held areas in northern Syria , near the borders with Turkey.
These deals also offer civilians the opportunity to flee conflict zones and allow entry of humanitarian aid into war-afflicted areas. International actors involved in the Syrian conflict such as Russia , Iran and Turkey have been acting as mediators.
While the Syrian government positively regards such reconciliation agreements, armed opposition groups and activists, however, view them as “compulsory displacement” aiming at reshaping the demographic population structure of the country.
“The compulsory deportation agreement in Al Waer neighbourhood in Homs came to announce the forceful entrance of the Russians in line with the [regime’s] demographic change plans targeting all those who are regarded by the Syrian regime as part of a ‘useful Syria’, under the patronage of Russia,” wrote Syrian activist and writer Omar Kokash in reference to the recent swap deal carried out on April 8 in Al Waer neighbourhood, the last opposition-held district in Homs, with some 2,500 people expected to leave.
Here is a timeline of the main “people evacuation” agreements that have been implemented since 2014 until the present day.
Homs, February 2014
An agreement was reached between the Syrian regime and the United Nations on the evacuation of Syrian civilians from Homs and the entry of humanitarian aid into the city.
Yarmouk, December 2015
The Syrian Human Rights Observatory reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL , also known as ISIS) and the Syrian regime had reached an agreement to facilitate the departure of ISIL fighters and their families from southern Damascus neighbourhoods, including the al-Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugees camp.
The agreement was discreetly reached between the regime and ISIL through local and international mediation. It stated that the evacuees would be transferred to Beer Qassab town in Damascus’s southeastern countryside, Homs’s eastern countryside or Raqqa city.
Qamishli City, April 2016
An agreement was reached between the Syrian regime and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Qamishli city. The agreement stated the following:
• Exchange of prisoners between the two parties.
• Upholding a ceasefire in the city.
• Discussing locations of posts where government forces and pro-government militias would be deployed and others where Kurdish forces would be deployed.
• All Kurds held prisoners by the government in Qamishli since before 2011 must be released.
• The regime will not arrest any Kurd for any reason nor will it arrest any Arab or Christian affiliated with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or working with the Kurdish administration.
Daraya, August 2016
An agreement reached between the Syrian regime and opposition allowed civilians and armed opposition fighters to leave Daraya town in Damascus’s countryside. The agreement stated the following:
• Civilians leave Daraya and head to regime-controlled areas in Sahnaya town, in Damascus’s countryside.
• Armed fighters leave Daraya and head to Idlib, in northern Syria.
• The agreement is implemented under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Crescent.
Al Waer, September 2016
” Al Waer Agreement ” between the Syrian regime and the opposition under the patronage of the United Nations. The agreement stated the following:
• The regime halts the bombing of Al Waer neighbourhood in Homs.
• Opposition fighters are allowed to leave the neighbourhood, in separate groups, and head towards northern Syria, as follows:
1. Three hundred fighters leave with their families from Al Waer to opposition-held areas in Idlib, and in return, the regime opens all roads leading to the neighbourhood and allows entry of food supplies to the area.
2. The regime releases 200 Al Waer residents held in jail, and in return, 500 opposition armed fighters and their families will leave the neighbourhood and head towards Idlib.
3. The regime reveals information about prisoners held in jail, and in return, 300 opposition armed fighters leave with their families.
4. The opposition withdraws from government sites and posts in the neighbourhood as the rest of the armed fighters leave with their families.
5. The Syrian regime is handed over full control over the neighbourhood.
Moadamiyah, October 2016
Hundreds of armed opposition fighters and their families left on October 19, 2016, the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyah heading towards Idlib, in northern Syria.
Up to 3,000 people were set to leave Moadamiyah as part of this deal between the Syrian regime and the opposition, including 620 armed fighters, their families and people from Daraya and Kafr Sousa who had been living in Moadamiyah after fleeing their homes.
In the same month, an agreement between the Syrian regime and opposition was reached on the departure of 600 opposition fighters with their families from Qudssaya and al-Hama towns in Damascus’s countryside. The agreement, effective starting from October 11, stated the following:
• Five hundred opposition fighters and their families leave Qudssaya and head towards Idlib.
• One hundred opposition fighters and their families leave Hama and head towards Idlib.
• The fighters must hand in their weapons.
• Opposition fighters who choose to stay in the towns hand in their arms and get their situation settled by the regime.
• The regime lifts the blockade imposed on civilians in the two towns.
• The regime restores water and electricity services in the two towns.
Al Tal, November 2016
An agreement reached between the Syrian regime and the opposition in Al Tal town in Damascus’s countryside. The agreement stated the following:
• The opposition hands over Al Tal town to the regime.
• The regime allows opposition fighters, armed with light weapons, to leave Al Tal and head towards Idlib.
Khan al-Sheeh, November 2016
An agreement reached between the Syrian regime and the opposition groups to evacuate all the opposition’s armed fighters from the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan al-Sheeh in Damascus’s countryside to opposition-held areas in Idlib.
The agreement stated that opposition fighters could keep their light arms but must hand in their medium and heavy arms in return for ending the regime’s shelling on the refugee camp, lifting the siege, allowing entry of humanitarian aid and restoring all public services in the camp.
East Aleppo, December 2016
An agreement reached between the Syrian regime and the opposition on the evacuation of civilians and opposition armed fighters from east Aleppo , to head towards Aleppo’s northern and western countryside.
Aleppo, December 2016
An agreement between the Syrian armed opposition, including Ahrar al-Sham, on one side, and the Syrian regime and Russia, on the other, to allow the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo . The agreement stated the following:
• Full evacuation of Aleppo civilians in return for the evacuation of a set number of “people” from Kefraya and Foua, in Idlib’s countryside, two towns besieged by the opposition’s “Jaish al-Fatah”, and others from Madaya and Zabadani, in Damascus’s countryside, that are besieged by the pro-regime Hezbollah forces.
Wadi Barada, January 2017
“Wadi Barada” agreement signed between the Syrian regime and the opposition through the mediation of a German delegation. The agreement stated the following:
• Ceasefire between the two parties in Wadi Barada region.
• Armed opposition to leave Ain al-Fijeh town and head towards Deir Muqaran village.
• Armed opposition fighters and civilians who choose to remain in Wadi Barada must reach reconciliation with the regime and get their situation settled by the regime. Otherwise, they must leave to Idlib.
• The return of families of opposition fighters who had previously fled from Wadi Barada so they can escort the fighters (their relatives) as they head towards Idlib.
Four Towns agreement, April 2017
The “Four Towns” agreement between the Syrian opposition’s “Tahrir al-Sham” and “Ahrar al-Sham”, on one side, and the Syrian government, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian side, on the other. The agreement stated the following:
• Up to 3,800 people, including opposition fighters, to leave from Zabadani, in Damascus’s countryside, and head towards Idlib.
• Up to 8,000 people, including pro-regime militiamen, to leave from Kefraya and Foua, in Idlib’s countryside, and head towards Aleppo.
• Exchange of prisoners and dead bodies.
• Departure of those who want to leave Madaya, Zabadani and Bloudan towards the north.
• Release of 1,500 prisoners held by the Syrian government, mostly women.
• Resolving the case of 50 families, originally from Zabadani and Madaya, stuck in Lebanon in return for the departure of all of Kefraya and Foua’s residents in two groups.
Foua and Kefraya, April 15
A large blast in Rashidin, west of Aleppo, targeted residents who were evacuated from the rebel-besieged towns of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province under a deal reached between the Syrian government and rebels. the attack has killed dozens of people.
Qaboun and Barzeh, May 15
More than 1,500 rebels and their family members left the devastated district of Qaboun on the edge of Damascus on Sunday, as the Syrian army and its allies continue to advance in areas in and around the capital, rebels and state media said.
Hundreds of rebels and their families were also evacuated from the adjacent Barzeh district after rebels there decided to lay down their arms and leave to rebel-held Idlib province.