CAIRO – The first group of rebels in the central Syrian city of Homs started to withdraw on Saturday from the al-Waer neighborhood according to a deal reached earlier in the week, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency cited Homs governor Talal al-Barazi as saying.
The first batch includes more than 1,500 fighters and civilians, who began evacuating the opposition’s last bastion in Homs. The withdrawal is monitored by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent as well as Syrian and Russian military police forces, al-Barazi added.
A deal mediated by Russia was reached on Monday between local rebel factions and the Syrian authorities to transfer opposition combatants to the rebels’ city of Jarabulus in Aleppo, according to British war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Jarabulus is under control of the Free Syrian Army, which takes part in Operation Euphrates Shield along with the Turkish army to fight the Islamic State terror organization.
The deal stipulates the evacuation of 12,000 people from al-Waer, the last rebel-held district in Homs, including around 2,500 fighters, who should evacuate the city gradually over the course of six to eight weeks.
After the departure of the last group of rebels, a brigade of 60 to 100 soldiers, including Russian officers, will be deployed in the neighborhood to oversee the commitment of both parties to the implementation of the deal, the SOHR said.
The deal comes after nearly a month of intense artillery shelling by regime forces of President Bashar al-Assad against the neighborhood.
More than 700 people were evacuated in December according to a previous deal. Since then, negotiations have been taking place to end the evacuation process, which never materialized.