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UN-Brokered Evacuation Swap Gets Underway In Three Syrian Towns

Scores of Sunni rebel fighters are being evacuated to safety from a town besieged by government forces in western Syria as part of a UN-brokered exchange which also will see hundreds of Shi'a families moved to safety from two towns besieged by rebels in the northwest of the country.

The mostly Sunni fighters in the town of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, are being evacuated on December 28 by bus to Beirut, from where they will fly to Turkey and later can move to rebel-held areas of Syria.

Simultaneously, around 300 families in two besieged Shi'ite towns in the northwestern province of Idlib will be heading in a land convoy to Turkey, from which they will fly to Beirut. The families are then expected to go back to other government-held parts of Syria.

The evacuation swap come as the United Nations and foreign governments have tried to broker local cease-fires and safe-passage agreements in Syria as steps towards the wider goal of ending the country's nearly five-year civil war.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters