Buses carrying civilians from the residents of Kefraya and al-Foua in al-Rashidin area in Aleppo within the Four Towns Agreement in its first step - April 2017
A leader of the Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS told NSO reporter that the negotiations between HTS and the Iranian side were still ongoing to complete the Four Towns Agreement "Kefraya, al-Foua, Madaya, and Zabadani" which held last year between the Assad regime and Iran from one hand, and "Jayesh al-Fateh" on the other.
These information coincided with the release of a new batch of injured on Tuesday from the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua in Idlib countryside, to regime-held areas, including five wounded and seven people accompanying them, in a unilateral agreement with Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham, which guarantees in return for the exit of five elements from al-Yarmouk camp south of Damascus.
The exit of this batch of injured people comes within the framework of the "Four Towns Agreement" signed by a representative of the Iranian side with representatives of the "Jayesh al-Fateh" early last year, which includes both the towns of Kefraya and Foua in Idlib countryside and the cities of Madaya and Zabadani in Rif Dimashq, in addition to regions south of the capital Damascus. Despite the cessation of the actual implementation of the agreement and being limited to evacuate a limited number of wounded recently or entering aids to the besieged areas, but a military source in HTS reported to NSO that there are ongoing negotiations with the Iranian side to resume implementation of the agreement.
Coinciding with the rising tension between Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham and the newly formed "Jabhet Tahrir Syria", a new batch of wounded came out from the town of Kefraya and al-Foua towards Assad regime-held areas. as the exchange of the wounded in the city of Morek, north of Hama, to transfer the wounded of Kefraya and al-Foua then to Latakia, according to pro-regime media outlets, while the "Syrian Red Crescent" reported of the preparations for the evacuation of 160 injured and sick people from the two towns, in exchange for the exit of 200 HTS fighters from south of Damascus.
* Four Towns Agreement and displacing people of al-Zabadani and Madaya
The Four Towns Agreement (al-Zabadani and Madaya in Rif Dimashq, Kefraya and Foua in Idlib countryside) was concluded between negotiators of Jayesh al-Fateh which included the largest factions in Idlib, and others from Iran, where the agreement provides for transferring residents of Zabadani and Madaya to opposition factions-held areas, while transferring the people in Kefreya and al-Fuoa to regime-held areas.
The agreement includes a cease-fire in the towns of Kefraya, al-Foua, Taftanaz, Ta'um, Broma farms, Zradna, Shalkh, Ma'aret Masreen, Ram Hamdan and the towns of Benish and Idlib, as well as the towns of Yilda, Babila and Bait Sahm, south of Damascus, as of March 29, 2017, for nine months.
The agreement, which was reached at the time, included transferring the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua in Idlib within two months and in two stages, in exchange for the transferring of the towns of al-Zabadani and Madaya in Rif Dimashq to northern Syria, in addition to evacuating al-Yarmouk camp south of the capital, which has elements of "Nusra Front", it also includes the entering of humanitarian aids to al-Wa'ar neighborhood of Homs and all the former areas and releasing of 1500 detainees in Assad forces prisons, most of them are women, without specifying the names.
The implementation of the agreement began on April 13, where 120 buses to carrying passengers entered the villages of Kefraya and al-Foua in Idlib countryside, in exchange for entering of about 80 buses to al-Zabadani and Madaya to carry the first batch of the residents of about 2,200 people, mostly women and children from Madaya and about 150 fighters from al-Zabadani, in addition to the fighters in the eastern mountain overlooking the city of al-Zabadani, while left the towns of Kefraya and al-foua five thousand people, including 3,700 children and women and 1300 elements of the pro-regime militias preferred to stop fighting, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, told NSO.
The buses that came out of the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua were targeted by a car bomb while they were waiting in the al-Rashidin area to enter Aleppo, according to information published at the time, the explosion was caused by a car bomb carrying food, came from Assad-held areas and exploded after arriving about 20 minutes, killing 100 people, including 30 of Jayesh al-Fateh and dozens of civilians.
Buses that were supposed to bring people from the two towns were burnt, probably attacked by elements who are likely of "Jund al-Aqsa" in December 2016, under an agreement that would have resulted in the departure of about 1200 people from Kefraya and al-Foua In exchange for the regime allowing the civilians whom he besieges in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, to go out.
The second and last batch of residents of the towns of al-Zabadani and Madaya came out on April 19 last year, and included 1358 people, including 158 FSA fighters. They were carried by 11 buses to the north of Syria, while the buses, which left Kefraya and al-Foua to al-Rashidin region west Aleppo, carrying 700 armed people, where NSO reporter said he met several of them at the time, some of whom told him they were civilians but were forced to take up arms by pro-regime militias in the two towns.
A leader in "Ahrar al-Sham" movement, who supervised the exchange process told NSO reporter that the exchange process was delayed because of the regime violated one of the terms of the agreement, which concerns the release of detainees, amid tight security in al-Rashidin region to avoid a new explosion similar to the bombing that targeted the buses in the first batch.
With the exit of the second batch, the city of al-Zabadani is completely empty of its residents, while more than 8,000 people remained in the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua, mostly fighters, where the evacuating of the two towns was supposed to end on next June 4, however, the implementation of the agreement has stopped before reaching this stage.
* A new chapter to take out what remained of Kefraya and al-Foua fighters
After leaving two batches of about 8,000 people from the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua, a similar number remained inside the two towns, with the majority of the evacuees being either civilians or fighters who decided to leave the fighting, while most of the rest are still armed who want to keep fighting, according to some people who came out of the two towns, told NSO.
A leader of Ahrar al-Sham movement told NSO that the agreement was sponsored by the "movement", adding that they tried to use it as a pressure card on the Assad regime, in order to complete the deal and release the detainees who did not come out during the first agreement.
For his part, an HTS leader told NSO last week that the agreement is still in force, although it is applied only on a limited scale currently only to remove the wounded from the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua and to remove other medical cases from areas besieged by the regime forces, like southern neighborhoods in Damascus and the eastern Ghouta.
The leader, who preferred not to be named, said that the negotiations are still ongoing with the Iranian side to get out those who remained in the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua in the next few days, whose number about eight thousand people, but did not indicate what is required in return, and whether there is another area will be displaced, especially with the regime's desire to evacuate south of the capital and empty the eastern Ghouta of its fighters.
He pointed out that the implementation of the final chapter of the agreement has become very close, adding that if the Iranian side delays in its implementation and if the regime continues to bomb the province of Idlib, it is possible that HTS would launch a military campaign to control the towns of Kefraya and al-foua by force instead of negotiations, as he put it.
The exodus of the last batch of wounded from the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua in a unilateral coordinating of HTS without the rest of the factions, raised an additional tension between the HTS and "Ahrar al-Sham movement", which was a key party to reach an agreement with the Iranian side, where some considered it as an attempt for HTS to show the extent of its control in Idlib countryside.
Some of the gunmen who came out of the second batch of Kefraya and al-Foua confirmed to NSO reporter that the leaders of the Hezbollah militia remained inside the two towns, adding that their numbers are estimated at 8,000 people, including 2000 civilians and about 6,000 trained fighters who have decided to stay, and some of which kept their families within the two towns.إدلب سوريا حلب حماة قوات النظام الجيش الحر نزوح تهجير Zabadani HTS FSA Iran Syria