Middle East

Syria population transfer begins with exchange of prisoners

  • This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

    This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

    This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

    This photo provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows buses gathered before a planned evacuation of residents in Madaya and Zabadani, two opposition-held areas near Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April.12, 2017. As part of the planned evacuation deal of the besieged areas in different parts of the country, Syria's government and rebels exchanged some 30 prisoners and nine bodies, activists and officials said Wednesday. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A Syrian official and an opposition monitoring group say the government and rebels have exchanged 30 prisoners and nine bodies, part of an agreement to evacuate four besieged areas in different parts of the country.

Hakim Baghdad, a member of the relief committee for two rebel-besieged villages in northwestern Syria, said Wednesday the overnight release was overseen by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. The Red Crescent had no immediate comment.

Military-run media said rebels released eight women, four children and eight bodies. Pro-government militias freed 19 gunmen and released one body.

The exchange came as part of a deal to evacuate over 10,000 residents from two opposition-held areas near Damascus and the two villages in northern Syria, an agreement that critics say amounts to forced displacement.