Rebels reach north Syria after south evacuations

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Hundreds of rebels and their families evacuated from southern Syria after a deal was struck with the regime arrived Saturday in the country’s northwest, an AFP correspondent said.

The evacuations from Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, came after a Russia-brokered agreement was reached earlier this week to see rebels hand over the territory to the Syrian regime.

Around 50 buses transporting fighters and their families reached the Morek transit route in the north of Hama province, which links regime and rebel-held territories, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the first convoy to reach Morek transported around 2,800 people.

They were to be transferred to other buses run by local NGOs, before travelling further north to temporary camps in rebel-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo provinces, the Britain-based monitor said.

“More than half of the evacuees are women and children,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“A second wave of departures is expected from Quneitra,” he added.

The evacuations follow a deadly regime offensive on Quneitra, a thin, crescent-shaped province that lies along the buffer zone with the Israel-occupied Golan to the west.

The rebel surrender negotiated by Russia, a vital regime ally, also saw fighters hand over heavy and medium weapons and return government institutions to the area.

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