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Qudsaya siege: Syrian rebels transferred to Idlib under deal

Civilians were evacuated last year from rebel-held parts of Homs after a two-year siege [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 November, 2015

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Dozens of rebel fighters have boarded buses bound for rebel-held Idlib, as part of a deal reached with the regime to lift its 4-months siege of Qudsaya west of Damascus.
Dozens of rebel fighters and their families were transferred from Qudsaya in the Damascus countryside to rebel-held Idlib on Monday, according to local sources.

The transfer is part of a deal brokered by the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent to lift a 4 month-long regime siege of the town.

"One of the regime's conditions for ending its siege of Qudsaya was fulfilled on Monday morning, with 135 fighters and their families transferred to Idlib," said Mohammad al-Shami, member of the local Qudsaya town council.

Delegates from the Red Crescent, the local reconciliation committee and the UN were present, Shami said.

"The fighters began gathering at 8 in the morning, before boarding buses to Idlib at 11, where the Army of Conquest is set to receive them," Shami added.

The rebels did not take their weapons with them, according to the local official. They handed them over to a number of fighters who stayed behind, until the regime fulfils its end of the deal, and allow supplies to enter the town and nearby areas also under siege.

The regime forces had stepped up their siege on Qudsaya nearly four months ago. Humanitarian conditions in the town deteriorated sharply afterwards for the more than 120,000 civilians living there.

Negotiations had been under way between the reconcilication committee in Qudsaya and regime officers, with the participation of Russian delegates to lift the siege, as al-Araby al-Jadeed Arabic reported earlier.

After most of the rebels withdraw, local committees from the opposition fighters and the local council would keep the order, under the deal, in coordination with regime forces that would remain outside the city.

The regime would then restore services to the town and allow supplies and civilian passengers to pass in both directions.

The regime and rebel factions have been reportedly in talks to get the largest possible number of fighters to withdraw from the Damascus countryside to Idlib, following similar deals in Zabadani and Madaya.

However, this has been criticised by some in the opposition, who believe this amounts to "demographic re-engineering" of the capital and surrounding areas.


Homs negotiations

Negotiations are also underway between the Syrian government and rebels for the evacuation of opposition forces from the last area they hold in Homs city, reported AFP Monday.

Talal Barazi, a local official, said a meeting was planned for Tuesday "with the goal of reaching a final resolution of the situation in Waer," in the west of Homs city.

Barazi said a deal would "mean the evacuation of the armed men and their weapons, as well as the return of state institutions to the district."

Some 75,000 people currently live in Waer, down from 300,000 before the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots activist network, said the meeting on Tuesday was to be held under the auspices of the UN.

Waer is the only part of the city, which is the capital of Homs province, that remains in the hands of the rebels after opposition forces were evacuated from the Old City in May 2014.

Their withdrawal came after a government siege of two years and daily shelling and combat that devastated the Old City of what was once dubbed "the capital of the revolution."

The deal that led to the rebel withdrawal was also overseen by the UN.

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