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Syria rebels warn al-Waer 'forced evacuation' will end truce Open in fullscreen

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Syria rebels warn al-Waer 'forced evacuation' will end truce

The regime has been accused of practicing "starve or surrender" tactics [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2016

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Hundreds of Syrian rebels will be evacuated from the al-Waer district of Homs on Monday, amid warnings from opposition groups that the "forced displacement" will annul the ceasefire.

Hundreds of Syrian rebels will be evacuated from the last rebel-held area of Homs city, amid warnings from opposition groups that the "forced displacement" will mean an end to a ceasefire.

The rebel fighters will be moved on Monday from the al-Waer district to the rebel stronghold of Idlib in the northwest of the country in a deal similar to recent evacuations the Damascus suburbs.

"Two hundred fighters and their families, most of whom are injured or are ill, will leave al-Waer for Idlib on Monday," head of the Homs Media Centre, Mohammad al-Sibai, told The New Arab.

"The total number of people evacuated will be around 800. The regime is also expected to release some prisoners or announce their fates," he said, adding that there are around 7,000 detainees in regime prisons from Homs alone.

"Humanitarian aid has yet to come into the district except for a limited amount of vegetables. Civilians are extremely cautious about travelling outside because of fears they will be arrested."

A collection of rebel groups in the Free Syrian Army and powerful Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham released a joint statement on Sunday, warning that evacuating al-Waer would amount to Damascus declaring the end to the current shaky truce.

A collection of rebel groups in the Free Syrian Army and powerful Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham released a joint statement on Sunday, warning that evacuating al-Waer would amount to Damascus declaring the end to the current shaky truce

"The opposition has clearly stated that any attempt to pressure besieged areas with military action or by methods aiming to displace people will void the truce," it read.

"If any person is evacuated from al-Waer or any other besieged district in Syria ... the regime will have clearly ended its commitment to any proposed truce, and all the revolutionary factions will continue in their legitimate right to fight it."

The opposition statement accused the regime of practising "starve or surrender" tactics and attempting to "ethnically cleanse" areas of their Sunni populations.

Similar local agreements have recently seen the surrender of the rebel-held Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Moadamiyeh to the regime.

The rebels have said the deals are part of part of a systematic policy of forced displacement on besieged populations after years of blockade and bombardment.

Jan Egeland, deputy to UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, has described the forced evacuations as "heartbreaking".

"The sieges in Syria could not be broken by a population giving up after starvation and after bombing. A siege is lifted by humanitarian access and freedom of movement in and out by the civilian population," he said.

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