Syrian rebels exit Homs as part of agreement
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.