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Assad govt. retakes rebel-held central Syria

17 May 2018

Militants in a number of towns and villages in the provinces of Homs and Hama withdrew after they agreed to leave to other parts of Syria, or surrendered to government forces and remained in the area, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement by the Syrian Army's General Command.

A Syrian family rides on a motorcycle in the town of Talbiseh in the central Homs province on May 16, 2018, after government forces took control of it as militants and their relatives were evacuated.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the last of seven batches of displaced left the area Wednesday in a convoy, bringing the total evacuated to 34,500 people, including fighters and civilians, who have departed to other rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

"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.

Rebels were in control of northern rural Homs for years.

"The courageous armed forces, with support from allies, have completed the clearing of 1,200 sq.km (463 sq. miles) in rural Northern Homs and Southern Hama, and have restored security to 65 villages and towns", said Brig.

The governor vowed that the Damascus-Hama highway would reopen "in the coming days".

In the two cities, hundreds of people gathered in the squares and streets on Wednesday, welcoming the arrival of the Syrian government forces.

Assad govt. retakes rebel-held central Syria
Syrian Army Liberates Dozens of Towns in Central Syria as Militants Surrender

Following Tuesday's advance, the adjoining Yarmouk Palestinian camp and the nearby al-Tadamon neighborhood are the only areas south of Damascus still under militant control.

The people in Rastan held posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian flags, and chanted support of Assad during the ceremony of raising the Syrian flag over the municipal building, which was largely destroyed.

Also on the day, the Syrian army said in a statement that the 1,200 sq km of the countryside of Homs and Hama were liberated.

"We declare from the area that we have triumphed over terrorism and we declare that we have overpowered terrorism from Homs province", the unnamed officer told Al-Ikhbariya.

The army also stressed its determination to continue fight against terrorist groups across Syria.

Government and allied forces have nearly finished retaking areas around the capital Damascus that had been held by extremist groups for years.

Syrian police entered a rebel pocket between the cities of Homs and Hama on Tuesday as the last batch of opposition fighters and their families readied to evacuate the area, the SOHR reported.

Assad govt. retakes rebel-held central Syria