Syrian Rebels Leave Last Remaining Stronghold In Homs

Syrian government buses evacuated residents from Al Waer in September 2016

Syrian government buses evacuated residents from Al Waer in September 2016

After the Arab Spring broke out in 2011, the city of Homs saw massive riots against President Bashar Assad, which gradually turned violent, as peaceful demonstrations led to the rise of an armed insurgency.

The Homs Media Center, an activist group, is reporting that 2,000 residents, including 400 rebel fighters, have left Al-Waer and are heading to Jarablus in the Aleppo countryside.

The Syrian government says such "reconciliation" deals, which have been agreed in several rebel-held areas, are key to ending the six-year civil war.

"The preparations and the reality on the ground indicate that things will go well", Barazi said.

The Syrian government described such deals as a "workable model" that would bring the country closer to peace after six years of conflict.

The government has increasingly tried to press besieged rebel areas to surrender and accept what it calls reconciliation agreements.

Al-Wair, on the western outskirts, is the last rebel-held district.

"These lies are a desperate attempt aimed at sabotaging the reconciliation agreement of al-Waer neighborhood in particular and the process of successive reconciliations in general", said al-Barazi.

"Russia is a guarantor of the Waer agreement's implementation and will monitor its execution", said the Russian colonel overseeing the operation.

Sources with the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say at least 10 buses entered the neighborhood.

"It's because there is zero trust in Assad's government".

How many people are leaving?

The evacuation will take place over the coming weeks. "They are willing to leave their homes, their land, towards the unknown".

But rebels say they are forced into such deals by siege and bombardment, and the United Nations has sharply criticised them.

Under the agreement, fighters could stay in al-Waer if they hand over their weapons and settle their affairs with the government, it said.

Al-Waer remained the last bastion of armed groups in Homs.

The government would start returning its services to the district with the departure of the last batch of rebels, Barazi said.

The most notorious of the agreements was the December evacuation of the rebel-held east of Aleppo after months of siege and bombardment that killed hundreds of residents.

A few hundred rebels from the district have previously been allowed safe passage to Idlib in the northwest. They were bound for a town on the Turkish border after the latest in a series of local agreements in which insurgents have relocated to the rebel-held north after months or years under siege in the country's major cities.

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