Syria militants begin evacuating Homs under government deal: Monitor
Foreign-backed militants have begun evacuating the last militant-held district in Syria’s western city of Homs under a recent deal reached with the government in Damascus, a monitoring group says.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three buses carrying some 500 militants had left the Waer district for the militant-held province of Idlib on Wednesday and that some 700 militants were expected to leave the district during the day.
“Eleven buses have left the city,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory, told AFP.
According to the deal, which was reached on December 1, the Waer district will return to the full control of the Syrian government and some 2,000 militants are scheduled to leave gradually.
The agreement was reached following a meeting between the governor of Homs Province, Talal Barazi, and the representatives of militant groups present in Waer, including the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, as well as civil society groups for the district, under the supervision of a UN delegation and representatives of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
Waer, which was once home to 300,000 people, now only houses some 75,000. It is the last district of Homs still under the control of militants, who withdrew from the Old City of Homs last year.
Syrian forces have been fighting to recapture areas under the control of foreign-backed militant groups, which have been wreaking havoc in the country since 2011. The crisis in Syria has so far claimed the lives of over 250,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s population within or beyond its borders.