Around 300 people from two besieged Syrian towns of Kafreyya and Fouaa arrived outside Damascus’ Sayyida Zeinab area, south of the capital on Tuesday after passing through Turkey and Lebanon as part of a rare swap deal backed by the UN to evacuate people from flashpoint areas.
Kafreyya and Fouaa in northwestern Idlib province are majority Shiite, and have been seized by rebel forces in response to heavy Assad regime bombarding to rebel held Zabadani.
An official celebration was set up in Damascus to welcome the arrivals later on Tuesday, the freed 338 people were evacuated to Turkey, flown to Beirut, and then driven into Syria.
The rare deal also saw 450 fighters and civilians, including the wounded, leave three flashpoint areas in Syria as part of a six-month truce reached in September, AFP reported.
About 126 people from the rebel stronghold of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, were evacuated to Beirut for transfer to Turkey. From Turkey they were to travel in to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
The evacuation was facilitated by the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which in a statement on Monday urged the implementation of the rest of the deal, including the delivery of aid.
"Yesterday we were able to deliver some aid, just some food and water, nothing really substantial," Tareq Wheibi, an ICRC spokesman told AFP.
"A lot more needs to be done and we're hoping this would happen in the next week. We're waiting for the green light.”