Last fighters begin to leave former Syrian rebel stronghold of Homs

Tammy Harvey
March 20, 2017

Scores of Syrian opposition fighters and their families began leaving the last rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs on Saturday as part of a Russian-backed evacuation deal signed earlier this week.

Buses have begun transporting people out of al-Wair district, under a Russian-backed evacuation deal.

About 1,500 people will leave for the Aleppo countryside on Saturday, Homs Governor Talal Barazi has said.

The evacuation operation is being overseen by Syrian and Russian military police units, al-Barazi later told Reuters, adding that all rebels from al-Waer are due to depart within around six weeks.

It was an early centre of the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The al-Waer neighborhood is home to about 75,000 people and has been under a government siege since 2013, triggering shortages of medicine, and occasionally of food.

Under a new agreement last week between government and rebel representatives, evacuees will be taken to opposition-held parts of Homs province, the rebel-held town of Jarabulus on the Syrian-Turkish border or the rebel-held north-western province of Idlib.

Commander of Homs Police Mag. Gen. Khaled Hilal said after the agreement is fully completed, al-Waer neighborhood will be declared secure, and consequently the whole city of Homs will be fully secured.

Broadcasting live from the al-Waer departure area, Syrian state television spoke to a Russian colonel, who said via an interpreter that security would soon return to the district.

Three waves of rebels and their families had already left Waer under an agreement first reached in December 2015, but subsequent evacuations stalled.

Omar al-Sibai, the secretary of the local branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, told the agency that some 10,000 people are willing to travel to northern Syria from Homs.

More groups of fighters and civilians are expected to leave the district in the next two months. Hundreds of rebels have previously left al-Wair under its terms, but implementation of the agreement had stalled in recent months.

Rebel groups have been on the back foot in Syria, following Russia's intervention in the war on Assad's side, bringing its air power to bear in support of his army and its Iranian and Shi'ite militia allies.

The wide array of mosty Sunni rebel factions includes some jihadists as well as some groups supported by the US, Turkey and Gulf states.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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