The last Syrian rebels left Homs' Old City yesterday under an evacuation deal that hands the government a symbolic victory, as civilians began trickling back in to find neighbourhoods in rubble.
The pullout leaves the rebels confined to a single district on the outskirts of the central city, once "the capital of the revolution" against President Bashar al-Assad.
As troops moved in to clear out explosives, hundreds of civilians began returning to see what remained of their homes in Hamidiyeh, a Christian district in the Old Town, which has been under nearly daily bombardment during a two-year siege.
Many were shocked, with tears in their eyes, as they climbed over debris to inspect the ruins, said an AFP journalist at the scene.
Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said "we have completed the evacuation of armed men from the Old City of Homs," referring to the withdrawal, which began Wednesday.
Most left Wednesday and Thursday, but buses carrying the last 250 rebels were delayed till Friday because fighters not involved in the deal blocked the pledged flow of food supplies into the Shiite towns of Nubol and Zahraa, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
As the aid convoys entered Zahraa Friday, the last rebels in Homs were finally allowed to leave.
Some 2,200 people were killed as near daily bombardment reduced the area to ruins, and people were reduced to surviving on little more than herbs.