Published: Sun, March 19, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Rebels Leave Al-Waer Under Government Evacuation Deal

Rebels Leave Al-Waer Under Government Evacuation Deal

The al-Waer neighborhood of Homs is home to some 75,000 people.

The first batch of gunmen and their families has started to leave al-Waer neighborhood in the western outskirts of Homs city.

"Russia is a guarantor of the Waer agreement's implementation and will monitor its execution", said a Russian colonel overseeing the operation.

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

Officials say the exodus will take several weeks.

Speaking to Chinese TV station Phoenix last week, President Assad said ceasefire deals negotiated with local rebel leaders were "the real political solutions" that could lead to a lasting peace in war-torn Syria.

"Not a single weapon or fighter will be left in Waer", he said, adding that about 40,000 residents were expected to stay in the district.

In March 2014, armed groups were evacuated from the old city of Homs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group estimates that a total of 12,000 people, including 2,500 rebels, will leave under the deal.

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. "That's why the numbers are high", said the head of the Homs Media Center, run by opposition activists.

Waer district has been under a siege by regime forces for four years.

Dozens of buses stood at a crossing waiting to leave Al-Waer, accompanied by SARC ambulances, a Reuters witness said.

Police officers searched people before the buses drove out, the Homs police chief told Syrian state television. Allegations of an evacuation of al-Waer's residents were "devoid of truth", the channel quoted Barazi as saying.

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.

A few hundred rebels from the district have previously been allowed safe passage to Idlib in the northwest.

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.

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