After an agreement reached by Syrian regime and the rebel forces present in the Rastan pocket of Homs Province, families living in the region have been evacuated to northern Syria.
Evacuations from the ‘Rastan Pocket,’ which is located north of the Syrian city of Homs, are ongoing, although not without delays. The pocket is an area of rebel-held territory that includes the prominent towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Houla. While no evacuations have occurred so far on Thursday, rebel fighters and their families are preparing for their eventually transfer to northern Aleppo.
Local sources have stated that the recent delays are due to Turkey’s request, as camps in northern Aleppo have not been fully set up. Many of the camps in northern Aleppo have suffered from flooding due to uncharacteristically heavy rains that have gripped much of northern Syria in recent days. Furthermore, for those that did initially leave on Tuesday, the convoys were held up around al-Bab. Last weekend, al-Bab witnessed heavy clashes and the prevention of convoys entering is arguably linked to these clashes.
The evacuations from northern Homs began last Tuesday, as rebel fighters handed over their heavy weapons to government forces, which included a number of FN-6 anti-aircraft missiles.
These evacuations form part of a wider strategy by government forces that has witnessed rebel evacuations from East Ghouta and Dumayr in recent weeks. Many of the fighters and families have been transferred to Idlib, although some, including those from northern Homs, have decided to transfer to Aleppo.
In other news, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that the 9th round of Syria Peace Talks in Astana will be held on May 14th and 15th. The Ministry stated that in addition to Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors, delegations of the United Nations, US and Jordan will be present as observers.
The talks will focus on the current state of the de-escalation zones, as well as humanitarian issues and confidence-building measures. The last round of talks was held in December 2017. In the intervening months, the East Ghouta de-escalation zone collapsed while the Rastan de-escalation zone surrendered. Idlib, meanwhile, continues to witness airstrikes.