Damascus, May 22 (IANS) The last batch of rebels evacuated their last stronghold in Syria’s Homs city, making the entire city under the government control.
The last buses carrying rebels and their families evacuated al-Waer neighbourhood, their last stronghold in Homs city, Xinhua reported.
The evacuation came following a deal struck with the government in 2015 to grant them safe passage toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
Several hurdles faced the full implementation of the deal before its reactivation in March.
Since March, 12 batches of rebels and their relatives have left al-Waer, with the total number of evacuees estimated at over 17,000, 7,000 of whom were rebels, according to the state TV.
Previous statistics indicated that al-Waer, which has been besieged by government forces since 2014, had 300,000 people before the six-year-old war erupted in Syria, and then the number decreased to 75,000.
For the government, regaining the neighborhood is a significant progress which will enable them to regain full control of Homs, Syria’s third largest city.
It’s also the heart of Syria due to its location in the central part of the country.
Homs is also one of Syria’s most important industrial centers, boasting the country’s largest oil refinery and key oil and gas fields in its eastern countryside.
The city is also a hub connecting major Syrian cities, and gaining full control over the city will be an important step for the government to have full control over Syria’s other major five cities of Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Aleppo and Hama.
For the rebels, losing their last stronghold in Homs is a major blow, following the huge defeat they suffered when government forces recaptured the entire city of Aleppo in December last year, after the rebels’ evacuation from the eastern part of the key city in northern Syria.
Rebels call Homs the “Capital of Revolution,” as it was one of the first cities to join the anti-government movement in Syria in mid-March 2011.