Rebel fighters and their families began leaving their last bastion in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday, state media and a Reuters witness said, under an evacuation deal with the government that is expected to be the largest of its kind.
The deal had been negotiated between a Russian team and rebels, stipulating that around 12,000 people will leave al-Waer area, among them 2,500 fighters.
About 1,500 people will leave for the Aleppo countryside on Saturday, Homs Governor Talal Barazi has said.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 rebels and civilians would evacuate in batches over the coming weeks under the agreement.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, along with Russian and Syrian authorities, are supervising the Al-Waer evacuation.
The Syrian government says such "reconciliation" deals, which have been agreed in several rebel-held areas, are key to ending the six-year civil war.
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Critics and opposition have described this as forcible displacement that is part of what they call the government's "starve or surrender", where rebel-held areas are besieged and bombarded until deals like this are reached. On Monday, a reconciliatory agreement was reached to legalize the juridical status of those who benefit from the amnesty law and the departure of those who did not accept it, in coordination with the Military and the Security Committees in Homs and the Russian Reconciliation Center in the base of Hemymin. In an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix last week, Assad said deals brokered locally with rebels were "the real political solutions".
The al-Waer neighbourhood is home to about 75,000 people and has been under a government siege since 2013, triggering shortages of medicine, and occasionally of food.
"Not a single weapon or fighter will be left in Waer", he said, adding that about 40,000 residents were expected to stay in the district.
Al-Waer is the last neighborhood in the city of Homs where armed groups still spread, imposing a siege on the locals.
The fighters and their families are being taken to the northern rebel-held town of Jarablus on the border with Turkey.
Rebel groups have been on the back foot in Syria, following Russia's intervention into the war on Assad's side, bringing its air power to bear in support of his army and its Iranian and Shiite militia allies.