Ceasefire in Syrian city of Homs allows evacuation of civilians and fighters

Evacuation begins amid ceasefire in Homs
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Evacuation begins amid ceasefire in Homs 01:52

Story highlights

  • Homs, cradle of revolution, appears set to revert to regime control
  • Fleeing fighters must leave "heavy and medium weapons" behind
  • Other rebel groups attempting to negotiate similar truces

(CNN)Few places in Syria have been devastated by the country's four-and-a-half-year civil war than the ancient city of Homs, 100 miles north of Damascus.

The city became a rebel stronghold -- some called it "the cradle of the revolution -- and it was subjected to a ferocious government assault. Large parts of it have been reduced to rubble.
    Now, a temporary ceasefire is allowing people trapped in one neighborhood of Homs to get out -- be they civilians, opposition fighters or even members of ISIS. And it may mean that Homs, which carries such symbolic importance to the revolution, will now revert to regime control.

    Evacuation began at dawn

    The evacuation of fighters and citizens from the Al-Wa'er neighborhood began Wednesday at dawn, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
    The organization said it had learned that at least 11 buses had left the neighborhood following an agreement reached between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and various factions opposed to him.
    The departure of the first group of gunmen, carried out under an agreement meant to clear al-Waer of gunmen and weapons, is being implemented under aegis of the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
    Under the first stage of the agreement, gunmen who are willing to leave must hand over their "medium and heavy weapons" to the side specified by the committees and will be allowed to keep only "light weapons," according to a statement Tuesday by Talal al-Barazi, the governor of Homs.

    About 800 people will be evacuated

    More people are waiting to be transported to Idlib and Hama provinces.
    Idlib province is in northeast Syria, bordering Turkey; Hama province is close by.
    In all, about 800 people will be bused out of the Al-Waer neighborhood, the observatory said. They include more than 400 women and children; about 80 fighters loyal to ISIS; a group from the Nusra front, which is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda; about 40 people either with injuries or special needs; and 80 other men and boys.
    Once the agreement is fully implemented, al-Waer neighborhood will be clear of weapons and gunmen, and under the full control of the state, the governor said.
    President Barack Obama had said last week the "pockets of ceasefire" would be negotiated in Syria. Other rebel groups are trying to arrange similar truces.