August 21, 2017
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Evacuation of Syrian Homs Rebels Delayed: Governor

BEIRUT (Reuters)


The second phase of an evacuation of Syrian rebels in Homs as part of a deal to surrender the city's last insurgent pocket of al-Waer to the government has been delayed until Monday, a senior official and a war monitor said on Saturday.

Homs Province governor Talal Barazi was cited by city officials in a message to Reuters as saying the operation would continue on Monday after having earlier said it would go ahead as planned on Saturday.

The war monitor said the evacuation was being postponed because of the fighting that began on Tuesday in Hama province between rebels and the army.

The departure of a first group of rebels and their families from al-Waer began a week ago and the evacuation is expected to be one of the largest of its kind, opposition activists and the war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have said.

Under the deal, as with others that have been previously agreed for besieged pockets, insurgents are able to leave with light weapons for rebel-held parts of northern Syria along with family members and other civilians who choose to depart.

Between 10,000-15,000 people were expected to leave Homs in weekly batches, the Observatory and opposition activists have said.

Although rebels launched their biggest offensive in months at the start of this week, they have been on the back foot in Syria since Russia intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in autumn 2015.

The government has over the past year accelerated its drive to force rebel-held pockets to surrender under evacuation deals like the one that is in force in Homs.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Mark Potter)