Syria's war : Forced evacuations begin in Al Waer

Posted March 19, 2017

HOMS, Syria/BEIRUT 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.

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.

Buses have begun transporting people out of al-Wair district, under a Russian-backed evacuation deal.

They are expected to leave their homes in Al Waer neighhbourhood as part of an evacuation deal with the government.

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.

Under the agreement, fighters could stay in al-Waer if they settle their affairs with the government, it said.

"The preparations and the reality on the ground indicate that things will go well", the governor stressed.

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"The first stage is expected to move up to 500 rebels with their families to the countryside of Aleppo [province]".

The Syrian government has described such deals as a "workable model" that brings the country closer to peace after six years of conflict.

People there say they have been told to get out or die.

Mr Barazi said there was communication with other rebel-held areas north of Homs city to reach similar deals. Last month, a United Nations convoy was seized by gunmen who diverted the assistance to a government-held area.

Al-Wair, on the western outskirts, is the last rebel-held district. He added that he had not expected anything from Geneva, where United Nations -led peace talks ended this month with no breakthrough.

The evacuation of Waer, a north-western district that has been under siege by the army for years, is the latest in a series of "reconciliation" deals struck by the government in opposition-controlled areas. Government forces have recaptured all but the Al-Wair district in the city. Russian Federation is an ally of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime.

As the Syrian military continues their offensive against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Damascus has intensified its efforts to persuade some of the rebel groups to surrender and sign reconciliation agreements.