Wednesday, 24 May, 2017

Syria's war : Forced evacuations begin in Al Waer

A rebel fighter walks with his weapon past a Syrian security personnel towards a bus to evacuate the besieged Waer district in the central Syrian city of Homs after an agreement reached between rebels and Syria's army Syria Operation to Withdraw First Group of Militants From Syrian Homs Completed REUTERS Omar Sanadiki
Mae Harvey | 20 March, 2017, 00:50

Known as "reconciliation agreements", this is one of the Syrian government's local pacts that allow surrendering civilians and fighters to evacuate to other rebel-held regions.

Throughout the day, women and children munching on pieces of bread lined up to load their luggage onto the buses, while men appeared to go through extra screening in separate lines. He had said earlier this week that fighters who decide to stay in al-Waer can benefit from a government amnesty issued earlier.

Al-Barrazi denied statements that said al-Waer residents are being forced to leave their homes, adding that thousands will stay on and many departing because of violence will return in the future.

Three waves of rebels and their families had already left Waer under an agreement first reached in December 2015, but subsequent evacuations stalled. Once Syria's second-largest city, Aleppo was finally completely liberated previous year when rebels evacuated after a ceasefire was declared.

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

The agreement underlines Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's upper hand in the war, as more rebel fighters opt to leave areas they have defended for years in deals that amount to negotiated withdrawals to other parts of the country.

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That backing has helped government forces recapture swathes of territory, including the whole of second city Aleppo as well as the famed desert city of Palmyra.

The fighters and their families are being taken to the northern rebel-held town of Jarablus on the border with Turkey.

Sources with the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say at least 10 buses entered the neighborhood. But the opposition decries them as a tactic of forcibly displacing people who oppose Assad after years of bombardment and siege.

A United Nations convoy trying to gain access to the district in February, was seized by gunmen who diverted the assistance to a regime-held area, the group said.

The regime says such "reconciliation" deals, which have been agreed in several rebel-held areas, are key to ending the six-year civil war.

Green government buses ferried the fighters, many carrying assault rifles, and their families from the northern al-Waer neighborhood to Homs' western entrance, where they disembarked and had some of their bags searched under the supervision of Syrian and Russian military police.

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