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Rebels, Civilians Withdraw From Last District as Syrian Govt Retakes Homs

UN Oversees Evacuation of Long Blockaded Area

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by Jason Ditz

272 Syrian rebel fighters and 447 civilians were evacuated from the al-Waer District of the city of Homs today, the last district which was out of the control of the Syrian government. The evacuation was overseen by the UN as part of a deal that returned the city to government control.

Homs has been contested for several years, and the recent Syrian military offensive in the area had added pressure to the blockaded neighborhood, virtually obliging them to negotiate a handover. UN officials are expressing hope that deals like this one can reduce fighting in heavily populated areas and provide a basis for broader peace talks in the future.

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One diplomat was quoted by Reuters as saying the Waer ceasefire, negotiated by local factions, was serving as the basis for more ceasefires, and that some are talking about as many as 40-50 more local ceasefires being discussed in the near future.

The exact composition of the various rebel factions who evacuated the district is not apparent, but reportedly included at least some members of al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra. The rebels were allowed to flee north into other rebel-held territory.

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