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Militants shell 2 Shia villages in NW Syria: Residents

Journalists and families of wounded foreign-backed militants in Syria wait for their release in Masnaa, Lebanon, December 28, 2015. (AP photo)

Foreign-backed militants in Syria have shelled two Shia villages in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing at least one person, residents say.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed the attack, which was carried out on Tuesday, saying it targeted areas near the two villages, al-Foua and Kefraya.

The shelling came a day after pro-government fighters and civilians left the area for Turkey under a UN-backed ceasefire agreement.

More than 300 people were evacuated from the two villages that have been under siege by the militants. They were taken to Turkey from where they would leave for Lebanon and then return to government-held areas in Syria.

At the same time over 120 militants holed up in the village of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, were given safe passage by Damascus to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said several organizations, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Lebanese Red Cross as well as the UN, were involved in transferring various groups of people.

The evacuations take place under a deal that was agreed in September. It is part of the UN and foreign governments push for brokering local ceasefires and safe-passage agreements to end the deadly crisis in Syria.

Damascus has previously agreed to several ceasefires with militant groups.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011.Since then, Syrian forces have been battling militants on different fronts throughout the Arab country. More than 250,000 people have died in Syria since the beginning of the nearly five-year conflict.

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