Syria conflict: Rebels begin evacuating Homs enclave of al-Wair

Families of opposition fighters sit in a bus waiting to leave as rebels quit the last neighbourhood they held in Syria's third city Homs

Last Monday, a reconciliation agreement was reached in al-Waer neighborhood in Homs city providing for settling the situation of the gunmen in the neighborhood and the evacuation of those who reject the settlement with their families, paving the way for the return of the state institutions, in coordination between the security and military committee in Homs and the Russian reconciliation center in Hmeimim-base.

Some 1,500 fighters and civilians aboard 40 buses left Waer, the last opposition-held district in Homs, to Jarabulus in northern Syria, the sources said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.

In 2011 the violent repression of demonstrations in many Homs neighbourhoods calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from power lead thousands to seek refuge in al-Waer.

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.

Syrian state television said that under the agreement, fighters could stay in al-Waer if they handed over their weapons and settled their affairs with the government.

Reporters saw scores of opposition fighters and their families leaving the area on Saturday in buses bound for the northern rebel-held town of Jarablous on the border with Turkey.


Critics and opposition have described this as forcible displacement that is part of what they call the government's "starve or surrender", where rebel-held areas are besieged and bombarded until deals like this are reached.

And no aid has reached the area in at least four months, with a United Nations convoy that attempted to reach Waer in February seized by gunmen who diverted the assistance to a government-held area. Russian Federation is an ally of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of intensive bombardment of the area.

The civil war, which entered its seventh year earlier this month, has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced more than half the country's population.

"We targeted an Al Qaeda gathering across the street from a mosque".

He said the building that was struck was a "partially constructed community meeting hall" that Al Qaeda leaders used to gather and "as a place to educate and indoctrinate Al Qaeda fighters".

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