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Qatari-Mediated Syria Population Swap Deal Includes Fua, Kefraya | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Relief agencies have been calling for more aid deliveries to Syria’s besieged areas/AFP

Beirut- Syrian opposition factions previously running under the operation room of Jaish al-Islam, mainly al-Nusra Front and Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, signed on Tuesday a population swap deal with Iran and “Hezbollah,” under a Qatari mediation.

The deal stipulates the complete evacuation of the two Shi’ite-majority towns of Fua and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside, northwestern Syria.

Sources close to “Hezbollah” confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that a similar deal was signed, without offering any details about its content.

Other informed sources said that a leader from al-Nusra Front had engaged in negotiations in Qatar with Iranian and “Hezbollah” officials and had signed the agreement in coordination and in agreement with Harakat Ahrar al-Sham.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the deal includes seven items.

The first stipulates the complete evacuation of Fua and Kefraya in a period of 60 days, conducted in two stages.

The evacuation of around 8,000 civilians from the two opposition-held towns will be conducted in return for the safe passage of a similar number of civilians, fighters and their families from Madaya and Zabadani in the western Damascus suburbs to areas in northern Syria.

“Hezbollah” besieges Zabadani and Madaya.

The fifth clause of the deal signals the release of 1,500 people held in Syrian regime prisons.

Informed sources expected the deal to be implemented on April 4.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that people who will be evacuated from Zabadani, Madaya and the Yarmouk camp would be given a choice of going to Idlib or Jarablous.

The two military and political Syrian oppositions did not show enthusiasm towards the deal, as some parties considered it the biggest deportation and displacement in Syria to date.

Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the National Coalition opposition body told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Similar deals facilitate demographic changes and forced deportations. The issue is not related to the displacement of fighters, but is rather linked to the deportation of thousands of Syrian families from their hometowns to Idlib, which is now the target of fighting.”

Munir Sayal, head of the political wing of Ahrar al-Sham said in a press statement that the deal was brokered under the patronage of Qatar. He said a ceasefire had already taken place in several areas, including Zabadani, Madaya, Fua, Idlib, Kefraya and southern Damascus. The truce is expected to last nine months, according to Sayal.