Rebels evacuated from Homs, cradle of Syrian uprising

by Reuters
Wednesday, 7 May 2014 13:35 GMT

Rebel fighters hold their weapons during preparations ahead of what they said was an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province May 5, 2014. Picture taken May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Rasem Ghareeb

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Syrian rebels started their withdrawal from the heart of Homs on Wednesday.

They loaded onto two busses, the first of many hundreds of fighters that will be evacuated out of the besieged old city.

Video posted online that Reuters can't independently verify purports to show the fighters leave.

The evacuation was agreed to between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad, and overseen by the U.N.

It will be carefully synchronized with aid deliveries into the city and the release of some rebel-held captives in two northern Shiite towns.

Activists say the first to leave were some 600 wounded fighters and their civilian relatives.

They reportedly headed to rebel-held areas north of Homs province.

Homs was an early center of the rebel revolt against Assad.

The mostly Sunni fighters had held out in the old center of the city for more than a year.

They were undersupplied, outgunned and faced bombardment by Assad's forces.

Their total withdrawal from the city center would consolidate Assad's military control and hand him a symbolic victory less than a month before his likely re-election.

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