Syrian Rebels Evacuate Homs Under Deal with Assad

Remaining opposition fighters in what used to be Syria’s third largest city give up.

Syrian army tanks shell a neighborhood of Homs, February 17, 2012
Syrian army tanks shell a neighborhood of Homs, February 17, 2012 (Freedom House)

Syrian rebels have agreed to surrender the last area of Homs they held to Bashar al-Assad’s forces, an opposition monitoring group and Syrian official said on Tuesday.

Homs, situated in central Syria between Hama in the north and the capital Damascus in the south, was one of the first cities to rise up against Assad in 2011.

In recent years, troops loyal to Assad, including fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, have reconquered the city neighborhood by neighborhood.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the remaining 3,200 fighters have agreed to leave. The governor of Homs Province confirmed the deal to the Associated Press.

Earlier this week, some one hundred rebels evacuated a western suburb of Damascus under a similar agreement.

A deal was also struck in September under which Sunni rebels left Zabadani, a hill station on the Lebanese border, for Idlib in the north of Syria where Shias, in turn, would be allowed to leave.

Russian jets, which started bombing Assad’s opponents that same month, have regularly carried out airstrikes in and around Homs.

Various media reported this week that Russia is planning to reopen an air base at Shayrat, just south of the city.

Homs was Syria’s third largest city when the revolt started. It is unknown how many residents remain. The city has seen some of the worst destruction in the four-year civil war.

Between 250,000 and 340,000 people are believed to have been killed in the conflict altogether. Another eleven million have been displaced.

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