Final batch of Syrian rebels leave central Homs district | News | DW | 21.05.2017
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Final batch of Syrian rebels leave central Homs district

The last group of rebels and their families are being evacuated from Syria's central city of Homs. Their removal will bring the city under government control for the first time in more than six years.

"The last evacuation of rebels, their families and civilians who wish to leave Homs is under way. It is the last group," regional governor Talal Barrazi said on Saturday.

Rebel fighters boarded buses along with women and children, with many heading for the rebel-held Idlib province or Jarablus on Turkey's border with Syria. Others were due to make the journey at dawn on Sunday.

Local officials estimated that up to 3,000 remaining rebels would leave the al-Waer district in Homs, in the final phase of an evacuation deal which began in March.

Safe passage

The deal, supervised by Russia, has guaranteed safe passage to opposition fighters out of besieged areas to other rebel-held regions in Syria.

Observers said the evacuation of al-Waer is one of the largest of its kind. By the time it is completed, as many as 20,000 people will have left the area.

Homs was Syria's third-largest city before the civil war began in 2011, when it was captured by rebels as part of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces have since retaken one neighborhood after another from the rebels, and besieged the al-Waer district four years ago.

Its recapture will give them back control of the entire central Syrian city.

Similar deals have allowed Assad's troops to retake control of besieged areas around Damascus and Aleppo.

Syrien Al Waer - Homs: Die letzten rebellen verlassen die Stadt (picture-alliance/dpa/Sputnik/М. Алаеддин)

Rebel fighters, along with women and children, left Homs' al-Waer district in buses on Saturday

Russian police arrive

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian military police have already begun entering parts of al-Waer to provide security for residents who still live there.

As in other evacuation deals, some rebels have decided to stay in al-Waer and hand over their weapons.

Young men of conscription age will be required to join the armed forces for military service.

Watch video 00:33

Syrian 'safe zone' deal comes into effect

mm/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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