Syrians stream back into devastated Homs

Photo: Syrians stream back into devastated Homs / Arab World

Hundreds of Syrians streamed back into the devastated Old City of Homs on Saturday, picking through the ruins of their homes after a deal that evacuated rebels from the area, Alarabiya reported.

They walked, rode bicycles and motorbikes, and pushed strollers down streets strewn with rubble.

Every building bore signs of the conflict, from bullet holes to enormous craters created by the shells that struck almost daily during a nearly two-year siege.

Many were visibly emotional at the sight of their former neighborhoods, now rendered almost unrecognizable.

Dozens of families were doing the same, gathering the clothes and keepsakes that could be salvaged from homes destroyed in the conflict.

A final convoy of rebels withdrew from the Old City on Friday, handing control of all but one district of Homs to the government under a deal negotiated between the regime and opposition forces.

As the rebels left, government troops swept the evacuated neighborhoods for explosives.

Homs governor Talal Barazi told state news agency SANA on Saturday that the areas were now "safe and free of weapons and insurgents thanks to the sacrifices of the Syrian army."

State television carried live footage of the influx of residents, interviewing people who offered their thanks to the army and President Bashar al-Assad.

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