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Government forces regain full control of central Syria as militants surrender

Syrian security forces raise the government flag in the main square of the town of Rastan in the central Homs province on May 16, 2018 after they took control of it as militants and their relatives were evacuated. (Photo by AFP)

The Syrian government forces have regained full control over central Syria after the Takfiri militants agreed to leave the militant-held final pockets in the region as part of an evacuation deal with Damascus.

The militants and their relatives were evacuated from areas straddling the boundary between the provinces of Homs and Hama to Idlib province under a deal reached between the militant groups and the Syrian government.

Hundreds of people gathered in the center of Rastan town in Homs to welcome the return of government troops and attend a flag-raising ceremony on the main square.

Nearby towns and villages in the areas of Talbiseh and al-Hula were also evacuated, according to the official SANA news agency and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The last convoy of terrorists and their families exits northern Homs province and southern Hama province," SANA reported.

The UK-based observatory said that some 34,500 people, militants and their families, left the area as part of the deal.

A Syrian family rides on a motorcycle in the town of Talbiseh in the central Homs province on May 16, 2018, after government forces took control of it as militants and their relatives were evacuated. (Photo by AFP)

"As of today, there is not one gunman left, no weapons left in the whole of Homs province," said Talal Barazai, the province's governor.

The governor vowed that the Damascus-Hama highway would reopen "in the coming days".

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

The Syrian government, backed by Russian warplanes, has managed to liberate swathes of territory it lost following the outbreak of the crisis from the control of the terrorists.

Since February, the Syrian army, backed by Russia, has been engaged in a major push to rid Damascus and the surrounding areas of terrorist groups.

In a significant victory early last month, the Syrian army managed to fully liberate Eastern Ghouta, which had long been controlled by militant groups and served as a launch pad for deadly rocket attacks against residents and civilian infrastructure in the capital.

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