Gunmen and Their Families to Leave al-Waer Neighborhood in Homs

Mar 19, 2017, 00:53
Gunmen and Their Families to Leave al-Waer Neighborhood in Homs

18 de marzo de 2017, 09:10Damascus, Mar 18 (Prensa Latina) The first group of armed extremists and their families started their evacuation from the neighborhood of Al Waer, the last section of the Syrian city of Homs that they occupied, authorities in that central province confirmed on Saturday.

Rebels and their families began leaving their last bastion in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday, state media and a Reuters witness said, under a Russian-backed deal with the government expected to be among the largest evacuations of its kind.

Under the agreement, more than 12,000 people would leave in batches over the coming weeks, according to the Observatory.

Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said the evacuation process was being overseen by Syrian and Russian forces, as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

The government has increasingly tried to press besieged rebel areas to surrender and accept what it calls reconciliation agreements that involve fighters departing for northern Syria.

Speaking to Chinese TV station Phoenix last week, President Assad said ceasefire deals negotiated with local rebel leaders were "the real political solutions" that could lead to a lasting peace in war-torn Syria.

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It comes ahead of another round of UN-brokered talks that open in Geneva on Thursday in an attempt to end a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 320,000 people and driven millions from their homes.

"Not a single weapon or fighter will be left in Waer", he said, adding that about 40,000 residents were expected to stay.

Some opposition activists have criticised the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters.

On Friday, the Russian Reconciliation Center said negotiations between the Syrian military and rebel commanders are underway in Homs, Damascus, and Hama, as well as other locations.

Under the agreement, evacuees will be bussed to opposition-held parts of Homs province, the rebel-held town of Jarabulus on the Syrian-Turkish border or the northwestern province of Idlib.

Rebel groups have been on the back foot in Syria, following Russia's intervention into 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.