Syria crisis: Rebels 'leave Homs' under truce | The Daily Star
03:37 PM, December 09, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:48 PM, December 09, 2015

Syria crisis: Rebels 'leave Homs' under truce

Syrian rebels have begun evacuating the last area they hold in the city of Homs under a ceasefire deal reached with the government, a monitoring group has said.

The deal means the entire city returns to government control.

Those leaving are due to go to areas of Idlib province still in rebel hands.

Homs, in central Syria, was once dubbed the "capital of the revolution" and saw some of the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad, in 2011.

The first bus has left the rebel-held area of al-Waer in Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

About 800 people, including rebel fighters and civilians, are due to leave throughout Wednesday, the observatory said.

Under the UN-backed ceasefire, food aid has reached the neighbourhood for the first time in nearly a year.

Ahead of the deal, the Syrian authorities said they released 35 opposition fighters detained in Homs.

"We wish for the best," said one resident. "What do we want but safety?"

Homs, Syria's third-largest city, has long been of geographic, strategic and economic importance. Before the uprising its population was estimated at 1.5 million.

Protests erupted in the city in the early days of the revolt against President Assad in 2011.

Soon, thousands of Homs residents were taking part in demonstrations despite a brutal crackdown by security forces and pro-Assad militiamen that left dozens dead.

But in 2012 the Syrian military began a major operation to retake the city, bombarding rebel-held areas, an assault that trapped thousands of civilians.

Last year a UN-brokered deal saw rebels pull out of one of their last remaining strongholds, the Old City.

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