Syrian Rebel Fighters Withdraw from Homs Following Ceasefire

Scores of people left the last area held by insurgents in the Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday under a local truce between the government and rebels. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

BEIRUT, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Buses carrying Syrian rebel fighters and their families safely reached the northwestern city of Idlib overnight after withdrawing from Homs under a local ceasefire agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.

The United Nations presided over the deal, which the mayor of Homs said involved 300 fighters and 400 members of their families leaving Waer, the last rebel-held area of the city that has been a centre of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Observatory said about 750 people had left, including fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Four buses arrived in Idlib overnight out of a total of around 15 that left Homs, with others still on their way, Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said.

Some diplomats say local ceasefires may be the most effective way of gradually bringing peace to Syria, where more than 250,000 people have been killed during nearly five years of conflict. However, one such ceasefire concluded in Homs in 2014 was widely seen as a forced surrender.

In late September, Iran and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, helped to broker local ceasefires in two villages near Idlib and a town on the Lebanese border.

A diplomat who tracks Syria said there could be more local ceasefires. The United States has said they could happen more frequently, after world powers called for a nationwide truce to halt Syria’s civil war.

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