Reports say the evacuation of four Syrian towns in the provinces of Idlib and Rif Dimashq, which was to take place Wednesday as part of a deal between Damascus and militants, has been postponed.
According to media reports, Friday is given as the new date for the start of the evacuation process, which was delayed amid divisions in the militant camp.
Syrian officials have not made any comment on the reported delay so far.
The Shia-populated towns of Foua and Kefraya, located in the northwestern province of Idlib, have been under a militant siege, while the Sunni-majority towns of Zabadani and Madaya, situated in Rif Dimashq Province near Syria’s border with Lebanon, are surrounded by pro-Damascus forces.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on March 28 that the two sides had stricken the deal that envisages the transfer of 16,000 people from Foua and Kefraya in exchange for the evacuation of militants and their families from the latter two.
Based on the agreement, the civilians in Foua and Kefraya will be transferred to the Jibrin neighborhood near Aleppo and the people from Zabadani and Madaya will be relocated to the city of Idlib.
Busses have already been dispatched to the towns for transferring the civilian population.
Under the agreement, the two sides have exchanged more than 30 prisoners and nine bodies. The Takfiri militants have released 12 people they had abducted earlier and returned the bodies of eight others.
Popular committees in Foua and Kefraya have also released 19 militants and one body.
Militants stationed south of Damascus have staged a protest against the deal to evacuate the four towns.
The agreement would also include a ceasefire covering areas south of Damascus as well as aid deliveries.
Last year, a similar accord oversaw mutual evacuations out of the towns.
According to Observatory’s director Rami Abdulrahman, however, the recent deal would enable the biggest population swap of its kind.
Last December, several thousand civilians were also allowed to leave Foua and Kefraya under a separate deal between the armed groups and Damascus, which also enabled the evacuation of a militant-held enclave in eastern Aleppo.