Regime retakes full control of central Syria as rebels evacuate

A woman gestures as she stands on rubble of damaged buildings in Raqqa Syria

Syrian regime forces are in control of the last rebel enclave in Syria's largest province after "overpowering terrorism" following the evacuation of thousands of armed men and civilians, an officer told state-run TV Tuesday.

He noted that, with the liberation of northern Homs and southern Hama from Takfiri organizations, various regions of the central area of the country and other provinces are linked by road.

"For the first time since 2011, Damascus, its suburbs, Homs and Hama provinces are for the most part controlled by the government, except for small pockets of Islamic State militants at the edge of the desert to the east near the Iraqi border and in Yarmouk camp south of Damascus as well as some rebel fighters in northern Hama", said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory.

Rebels were in control of northern rural Homs for years.

Nearby towns and villages in the areas of Talbiseh and Al Hula were also evacuated, the official SANA news agency and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported.

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The armed factions, which the government systematically refers to as "terrorists", were transferred to Idlib province, which still largely escapes regime control.

Opposition fighters and their families there began leaving the areas around a week before following a deal reached with the government.

"As of today, there is not one gunman left, no weapons left in the whole of Homs province", the province's governor, Talal Barazai, told AFP in Rastan.

He highlighted in particular that the notorious military successes and the evacuation of the radicals of both territories allow the reopening of the Homs-Hama worldwide highway, which links south Syria with the center and north of this Arab territory. In a major victory for the Syrian government, the rebels agreed, following Russian-sponsored mediation, to evacuate their areas in early May. They have moved to the opposition-controlled area in the north by Wednesday.

It further cements President Bashar Assad's dominant position over the most populated parts of Syria after years of fighting.

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