Hundreds leave besieged Homs in third phase of evacuation

Published April 2nd, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
Syrian government fighters raise the country's flag after a previous evacuation of opposition fighters in 2014. (AFP)
Syrian government fighters raise the country's flag after a previous evacuation of opposition fighters in 2014. (AFP)
Hundreds of Syrian rebels and their families left the besieged central city of Homs on Saturday as the third phase of evacuations from the last rebel-held neighbourhood began. 
 

Around 170 fighters and their families left al-Waer district on Saturday, as part of an agreement which will see evacuations from neighbourhoods in Homs and the besieged towns of Madaya and Zabadani in Rural Damascus and Foua and Kefraya in Idlib. 

Unlike the previous two evacuations in which the fighters and their families headed to the town of Jarblous on the border with Turkey, Saturday's evacuees headed toward the rebel-held province of Idlib.

"The families began evacuating early in the morning, heading towards the Idlib province," Homs Media Center reported.

Syrian state TV said some 350 people boarded 22 buses that later moved toward the country's north.

Saturday's evacuees included 358 women and 434 children, according to an Anadolu news agency.

The evacuation is part of an agreement to surrender al-Waer to the government and will last weeks.

As part of the agreement, at least 12,000 people will be transferred to Aleppo province, 6,200 to Idlib and 2,400 to Homs, according to Anadolu.

Opposition activists have criticised the deal, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The government has rejected those allegations. 

The UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien also voiced concern over the agreement, stressing that any evacuations must be voluntary and must not be done "through any type of 'surrender' agreement which results in the decimation of an area and the forced displacement" of civilians.


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