Syr­ian rebels exit Homs as part of agree­ment

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Al­bert Aji and Bassem Mroue

homs, syria» 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.

By sun­set, 344 fight­ers and their fam­i­lies had left the city — once a cen­ter of protest dur­ing the 2011 up­ris­ing — com­plet­ing the evac­u­a­tion for the day. 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.

Green gov­ern­ment buses fer­ried the fight­ers, many car­ry­ing as­sault ri­fles, and their fam­i­lies from the north­ern al-Waer neigh­bor­hood to Homs’ west­ern en­trance, where they dis­em­barked and had some of their bags searched un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Syr­ian and Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice. Three fight­ers ar­rived in wheel­chairs.

The men, women and chil­dren, most car­ry­ing their be­long­ings in suit­cases and plas­tic bags, boarded white busses tak­ing them to the north­ern rebel-held town of Jarablous on the Turk­ish bor­der. The evac­uees were as­sisted by Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent mem­bers as they loaded their be­long­ings onto the busses.

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. The evac­u­a­tion is the third phase of an agree­ment reached last year that saw hun­dreds of fight­ers and their fam­i­lies leave the area.

Homs Gov­er­nor Talal Bar­razi said around 1,500 fight­ers are ex­pected to leave al-Waer, with only their per­sonal ri­fles, over the next six to eight weeks.

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