Homs fully under Assad control

  • 22/05/2017
A rebel fighter carries suitcases and his weapon prior to boarding a bus (Reuters)
A rebel fighter carries suitcases and his weapon prior to boarding a bus (Reuters)

The last buses carrying rebel fighters and their families have left a besieged district of Syria's Homs, completing a deal to bring the whole city back under government control for the first time since the start of the war.

Several hundred fighters left on Saturday and Sunday in the final phase of the evacuation of insurgents from al-Waer, long besieged by government forces and the last opposition-held neighbourhood in Homs, an early centre of the Syrian uprising.

In what the government calls reconciliation deals, thousands of opposition fighters and their families have left a number of areas in western Syria in recent months, bringing President Bashar al-Assad's government back in control of the country's main urban centres.

The opposition and the United Nations have criticised the deals as forced displacement of Assad's enemies often after months or years of siege and bombardment.

Evacuees have mostly headed for insurgent-held Idlib province, or for Jarablus, a town along Syria's northern border near Turkey.

Al-Waer has been under full siege for more than a year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Government forces backed by Russian military police had begun to take control of key parts of the district, a Russian officer told Syrian state TV.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi told reporters that in the coming hours "al-Waer will be empty of all militants and weapons".

He said more than 700 rebel fighters would have left by the end of the final phase on Sunday, as well as at least 1000 other people including their family members.

Some 1150 rebel fighters have decided to stay in the district and hand over their weapons under a government amnesty, Barazi said.