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Observatory: Syrian Rebels Given Safe Passage to Idlib in Cease-fire Deal

  • Reuters

Syrian civilians in buses leave the Waer neighborhood, in the city of Homs, Syria, as part of a deal with local government forces in which dozens of of insurgents are also being allowed safe passage to areas in the country's north, Dec. 9, 2015.

Syrian civilians in buses leave the Waer neighborhood, in the city of Homs, Syria, as part of a deal with local government forces in which dozens of of insurgents are also being allowed safe passage to areas in the country's north, Dec. 9, 2015.

Buses carrying Syrian rebel fighters and their families safely reached the northwestern city of Idlib on Thursday after withdrawing from Homs under a local cease-fire agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The United Nations presided over the implementation of the deal, which the mayor of Homs said involved 300 fighters and 400 members of their families leaving Waer, the last rebel-held area of the city that was a center of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier in the conflict.

The Observatory said about 750 people had left, including fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and fighters linked with Islamic State.

Islamic State does not have a major presence in western Syria.

Four buses arrived in Idlib overnight out of a total of around 15 that left Homs, and the rest arrived during the day on Thursday, Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. The Britain-based Observatory tracks the conflict through a network of contacts on the ground.

Buses carrying gunmen leave the Waer neighborhood, in the central city of Homs, Syria, as part of a local deal with government forces that allows them safe passage to areas in the country's north, Dec. 9, 2015.

Buses carrying gunmen leave the Waer neighborhood, in the central city of Homs, Syria, as part of a local deal with government forces that allows them safe passage to areas in the country's north, Dec. 9, 2015.

Lebanon-based al Mayadeen TV, which has good contacts in Syria, reported the "operation was completed" on Thursday.

Some diplomats say local cease-fires may be the most effective way of gradually bringing peace to Syria, where more than 250,000 people have been killed during nearly five years of conflict. However, one such cease-fire concluded in Homs in 2014 was widely seen as a forced surrender.

In late September, Iran and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, helped to broker local cease-fires in two villages near Idlib and a town on the Lebanese border.

A diplomat who tracks Syria said there could be more local cease-fires.

The United States has said they could happen more frequently, after world powers called for a nationwide truce to halt Syria's civil war.

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