Syrian town massively ruined after militant evacuation

Press TV – Years of militancy has left a trail of destruction in the Syrian town of Zabadani, which was recently evacuated as part of a deal between the Damascus government and militants.

On Wednesday, the last batch of militants and their families were evacuated from Zabadani in Rif Dimashq province, in a process that put the town back under Syrian army control.

Footage released by Syrian military media on Wednesday showed explosive-laden vehicles and other military equipment abandoned by militants in Zabadani before departure.

Images also showed the scale of destruction in the Syrian town, which has been reduced to rubble by the terrorist groups there.

Reports say the militants had destroyed posts and ammunition before leaving the town, while some 200 have agreed to lay down arms and stay to avail themselves of the amnesty law issued by the Syrian government.

The Syrian government also started distribution of food in al-Zabadani and Baqin, a nearby village.

Zabadani first fell to militants in 2012, a year after a foreign-backed crisis broke out across Syria. The town has several times changed hands amid fighting between the Syrian army and the militant groups operating there.

The evacuation was part of a process that saw the “biggest population swap” of its kind in Syria, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Under a deal reached between Damascus and militants late March, residents of Foua and Kefraya, two Shia-majority towns in Idlib Province, were agreed to be taken to the outskirts of Aleppo City, while the militants and their families will be transferred from Sunni-populated Zabadani and Madaya near Damascus to militant-held territory in Idlib.

Reports say Zabadani is fully cleared of militants now, but the evacuation of other areas, along with more militant-held villages along the Lebanese border, are expected to continue for some time.

The evacuations began last Friday, but they came to halt briefly when a bomber blew up an explosives-laden car ripping through several buses carrying evacuees from Kefraya and Foua.

The terrorist attack killed at least 126 people, including 68 children, and injured dozens of others.

The agreement also includes a prisoner swap, a ceasefire covering areas south of Damascus and aid deliveries.

Last December, several thousand civilians were allowed to leave Foua and Kefraya under a separate deal between the armed groups and Damascus, which also enabled the evacuation of a militant-held enclave in eastern Aleppo.