Aid groups evacuate last of critically ill from Syrian rebel area

The Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent have evacuated the third and last group of critically sick people from a besieged rebel stronghold near the Syrian capital Damascus under a deal with the government.

The last group of 12 patients were evacuated from the region of Eastern Ghouta shortly after midnight, Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based watchdog, said Friday.

"The 12 were transferred to hospitals inside Damascus, after 17 others have been evacuated from Eastern Ghouta since Wednesday," Abel-Rahman added.

Under a deal with Damascus, rebels from Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), who control the region, released 26 prisoners and handed them over to the government in exchange for evacuation of the critically ill people from Eastern Ghouta.

A total of 400,000 people in the region have been largely cut off from humanitarian aid since 2013.

Earlier this month, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said children in Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus were suffering one of the worst health crises of Syria's civil war.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by government forces for the past four years.

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