After a long and bloody battle, scenes of the most vulnerable Syrians streaming out of a devastated eastern Aleppo have been closely watched around the world.
Some 60 kilometers away, a lesser known evacuation was also taking place in the Shia villages of Foua and Kefraya where the population, which is mostly loyal to Bashar al-Assad, has been besieged by rebels for the past 21 months.
This week, Batool Aswad, 20, was one of the 750 people who took the green buses parked at the entrance of Foua, in the suburbs of Idlib, and left her hometown.
While only the elderly, injured and sick were allowed to go, Aswad says she was given an exception because she was accompanying her diabetic aunt.
“I had to leave my mother, siblings, my 5-month old baby sister, all behind,” she told CNN in a WhatsApp voice memo after reaching their first stop in government-held Aleppo district.
“The suffering in Foua is indescribable,” Aswad added over the loud din of other evacuees in the background, “hunger, destruction, death and terrorism.”
Kefraya and Foua, less than a mile from each other and with a combined population of some 12,500, have been surrounded by a rebel coalition that includes an al Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat Fath al-Sham since March of 2015.
The UN said Foua and Kafraya faced acute shortages of food, medicine and fuel. The agricultural land in the area initially helped mitigate the impact on food supplies, but the lack of fuel made the cultivation of agricultural lands difficult. Up to 70% of the farmland became inaccessible because of snipers, according to the UN humanitarian agency.
Despite almost daily artillery fire and limited food supplies and other commodities, the plight of the two villages have not received as much media attention.
“The media coverage of us was completely non-existent. Even local media coverage was bad and international media would just mention the villages without even mentioning the presence of civilians there,” Eyad, a student in Latakia whose parents are still in Foua, told CNN over the phone.
He did not want his full name to be published over security concerns.
Eyad who says he hasn’t seen his family in two years, set up a Facebook page to bring awareness to the suffering of villagers and fight what he believes is the media reluctance to cover the villages.
Videos on the Facebook page show edited compilations of rocket, bomb and shellfire. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the footage, but the UN and other international organisations have reported targeted attacks on this Shia enclave.
Attempts to evacuate people from Foua and Kafraya have been dependent on the willingness of the regime to deliver aid to opposition areas like Madaya in the suburbs of Damascus, and most recently eastern Aleppo.
The sectarian and political divide in the country means that Aswad and the other evacuees from Foua and Kafraya will be settled in the coastal city Latakia and other government strongholds. Those who left eastern Aleppo mostly fled to rebel-held Idlib.
Aswad hopes to arrive in Latakia safely and attend university there. The siege had halted her studies, as schools in Foua were either damaged or turned into displacement camps.
She was one of 1,500 school students and 400 university students who were unable to take their exams, according to a UN report.
“I hope now that there will be more media coverage of our plight so that the rest of our families can get out,” Aswad said.
“Every hour and every day the situation is getting worse and people can’t take much more of it.”