Mon May 8, 2017 09:52AM
Syrian militants and their families gather at a staging point in the Barzeh suburb of the capital Damascus on May 8, 2017, as they wait to be evacuated. (Photo by AFP)
Syrian militants and their families gather at a staging point in the Barzeh suburb of the capital Damascus on May 8, 2017, as they wait to be evacuated. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of foreign-backed militants have started evacuating the besieged Damascus suburb of Barzeh under an agreement reached with the Syrian government.

State-run Ekhbariya television reported that the evacuation of the militants from Barzeh to militant-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib had begun on Monday.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses had arrived to transport the militants and their family members out of Barzeh at dawn, adding hundreds of them had started to board the vehicles.

The Britain-based monitoring group said more people would leave the suburb over the coming days as part of the same agreement.

The flashpoint district of Barzeh, which lies in northeast Damascus near the militant-held Eastern Ghouta, has seen fierce fighting between Takfiri militants and Syrian forces in recent months.

Militants usually use a maze of underground tunnels or artillery fire to attack targets inside the Syrian capital. 

The monitoring group also said the Syrian army troops have advanced in the Qaboun district, which is adjacent to Barzeh in the same besieged enclave.

Separately, a military media unit run by Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Monday that several Red Crescent ambulances had arrived in the Syrian towns of Foua and Kefraya, which are under the siege of militants, to evacuate residents.

The two towns in Idlib were part of a mutual evacuation deal reached between the Damascus government and militant groups in March which involved the evacuation of Zabadani and Madaya in Rif Dimashq.

The towns of Zabadani and Madaya are surrounded by pro-government forces.

The evacuations are part of the Syrian government's reconciliation efforts in order to secure civilian lives following a series of mysterious chemical and other attacks.

In recent months, hundreds of militants have laid down weapons and surrendered to the Syrian army under such agreements.

Syria has been grappling with militancy since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the conflict until then.