Syrian rebels pull out of their last besieged area

Lester Mason
May 17, 2018

Syrian government flags were also raised on state institutions in the northern countryside of Homs and the southern countryside of Hama.

State media and activists say more than 27,000 civilians and gunmen have left the northern countryside of Homs in the past days, the latest in a string of capitulation deals by the rebels around the country. They have moved to the opposition-controlled area in the north by Wednesday.

In Homs, the cities of Rastan and Talbiseh were the major strongholds for rebel groups and became the first two areas in the province to fall out of the government control in 2012.

Syrian police entered a rebel pocket between the cities of Homs and Hama on Tuesday as the last batch of opposition fighters and their families readied to evacuate the area, the SOHR reported.

Government and allied forces have nearly finished retaking areas around the capital Damascus that had been held by extremist groups for years.

The surrender in northern Homs and southern Hama adds to what has been described as one of the largest population shifts in Syria since the conflict began.

Hama still has rebel positions in its northern countryside, while Homs is now completely cleared of all rebel groups.

"[The significance of this achievement] is reflected in the uprooting of the armed terrorism from the central region which constitutes a traffic node connecting the Syrian provinces in addition to liberating the dams of al-Rastan and al-Houla, and ending the terrorist threat to sensitive and strategic facilities", the Syrian Army General Command said in a statement on May 16.

Videos shared on social media showed vehicles carrying the Russian flag accompanying the deployment.

Nearby towns and villages in the areas of Talbiseh and Al Hula were also evacuated, the official SANA news agency and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported.

A small pocket in southern Homs province, near the border with Iraq, is controlled by USA -backed rebels.

"The courageous armed forces, with support from allies, have completed the clearing of 1,200 (463 sq. miles) in rural Northern Homs and Southern Hama, and have restored security to 65 villages and towns", said Brig.

A total of 34,500 people - armed men and their families - were transferred out of the area as part of the deal, according to the Britain-based observatory.

This suggests the southern province, which is protected by a US -backed de-escalation zone agreement, may be the next battleground in the Syrian conflict.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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