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3rd phase of militant evacuation begins in Syria’s Homs

Militants, carrying their weapons, and family members leave the al-Waer district in the Syrian city of Homs, March 18, 2017. (Photo by AP)

A third group of militants and their families has begun leaving the last militant bastion in Syria’s western city of Homs under an agreement reached recently with the Syrian government.

Syria’s state TV reported on Saturday that 19 buses carrying some 800 people had left Homs’ al-Waer neighborhood.

The first and the second phases of the evacuation process took place in March. The evacuees are transported to the militant-held city of Jarablus on the border with Turkey.

Russian and Syrian forces along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are supervising the departure.

In this photo, released by Syria’s official SANA news agency, militants and their family members are seen leaving the al-Waer neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs on March 27, 2017. (Via AP)

Homs’ governor Talal al-Barazi has estimated that it will take six to eight weeks for the evacuation to be completed.

“At last, the neighborhood will be free from all armed phenomena after the exit of gunmen who rejected to join the reconciliation along with their families and the settlement of the status of those who want to return to their normal lives in accordance with” an amnesty decree, Barazi said last month.

The Syrian military and the militants struck the deal on March 13, under which between 10,000 and 15,000 people would leave al-Waer, according to the so-called Homs Media Center.

The agreement allows safe passage for the militants and their families from al-Waer and paves the way for Damascus to retake the state institutions there.

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Once completed, the al-Waer evacuation would be the biggest of its kind in Syria since 2011, when foreign-sponsored militancy broke out in the Arab country.

The Syrian city of Aleppo was evacuated similarly last year as part of a ceasefire deal between the government and militant groups brokered by Russia and Turkey.

The al-Waer evacuation comes as the Syrian army continues to engage armed groups not included in a countrywide ceasefire deal.

On Saturday, the Syrian military clashed with the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, in the southwestern province of Dara’a.

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