Syrian rebel forces have begun evacuating the last district they hold in the central city of Homs under a deal with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a rights monitor says.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said three buses carrying about 150 civilians had left the district and more were to follow.
The deal was reached earlier this month and will see some 2,000 rebels and their families leave the besieged Waer district of Homs city, once dubbed “the capital of the revolution”.
The United Nations is presiding over implementation of the deal which was agreed directly between the Syrian sides.
Humanitarian aid reached the Waer district of Homs last week under the terms of the agreement.
Mr Abdel Rahman said about 750 people were awaiting evacuation on Wednesday. That number will include scores of fighters and civilians, with priority given to women, children and the severely wounded.
“They all gathered at 4:00am [local time] in the streets, waiting to leave the city,” Mr Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Buses would head from Homs city to the Qalaat al-Madiq area of central Hama province, then onto the north-western province of Idlib, he added.
Idlib province is held by the Army of Conquest rebel alliance, which includes Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and which would send some of its forces to escort the buses, according to Mr Abdel Rahman.
Earlier this month, Homs governor Talal Barazi said all rebels would leave Waer within two months, in return for the regime lifting its siege of the district and ending military operations there.
Government police — but not troops — will then re-enter the area.
Diplomats say local ceasefires between Syrians may be the most effective way of bringing peace to a country torn apart by conflict for nearly five years.
The Homs deal follows the stalling of a separate plan aimed at halting fighting between rebels and government forces near Damascus.
Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, government-and-politics, syrian-arab-republic