Syrian Rebels Begin Final Phase of Homs Evacuation

Syrian rebels began leaving the last opposition-controlled district of Homs on Saturday, the final phase of a Russian-backed evacuation deal that will see Syrian government forces retake rebel strongholds. About 2,500 people were expected to leave al-Waer on Saturday, and at least four buses transporting rebel fighters and their families had already taken off by mid-afternoon. Russian military police plan to oversee the final stage of the evacuation, with a Russian officer cited by Reuters as saying Russian troops “will stay, and will carry out duties inside the district.” The evacuation of al-Waer, one of the largest of its kind, has been carried out in fits and starts since March. The evacuation process, which the government describes as a reconciliation agreement aimed at restoring order in the seven-year war, has not been free of controversy. In mid-April, dozens of evacuees were killed, many of them children, when a bomber attacked bus convoys carrying evacuees outside Aleppo.