The Four Cities Agreement is one of the most important negotiated evacuations since the troubles began in Syria in 2011. Understanding it is important to understanding the regional dimensions and strategic locations of the war.
The Four Cities Agreement is an agreement between the Syrian government and the armed opposition factions. It was first signed in 2015 to ensure that all the four villages that were besieged would be protected and could still receive aid. The deal has since been renegotiated to evacuate civilians and fighters from four besieged areas.
The agreement allows for the civilians and pro-government fighters to leave al-Fu’ah and Kefraya to Aleppo, in exchange for opposition fighters and their families to leave from Zabadani, Madaya and parts of the Yarmouk camp to territories that are controlled by the armed opposition factions, most likely Idlib.
The first phase of the agreement began last Saturday, but it was stopped when a suicide bombing targeted a convoy loyal to the government in the neighbourhood of Rashidin, located to west of Aleppo, leaving 126 dead, including 68 children. After a four-day halt, the first phase was resumed with the aim of completing the departure of 3,800 people, including armed opposition fighters, in exchange for the exit of 8,000 people, including fighters and government supporters from Kefraya and Fu’ah.
According to the agreement, evacuations will be completed in the second phase which will begin in two months’ time to evacuate the residents of both al-Fu’ah and Kefraya, estimated to be about 16,000, in exchange for evacuating about 11,000 people from Zabadani and Madaya, both located in the countryside of Damascus. The agreement allows for the continuation of a six-month ceasefire in these areas, with the continuation of delivering humanitarian aid. Moreover, the agreement requires the release of about 1,500 detainees of the Syrian authorities.