The last Syrian rebels left Homs' Old City Friday under anevacuation deal that hands the government a symbolic victory, as civilians begantrickling back in to find neighbourhoods in rubble.The pullout leaves the rebels confined to a single district on the outskirts of thecentral city, once "the capital of the revolution" against President Bashar al-Assad.As troops moved in to clear out explosives, hundreds of civilians began returning to
see what remained of their homes in Hamidiyeh, a Christian district in the OldTown, which has been under nearly daily bombardment during a two-year siege.Many were shocked, with tears in their eyes, as they climbed over debris to inspectthe ruins, said an AFP journalist at the scene."My whole house is destroyed. I went to my in-laws' home, and that's destroyed too.Nothing, except a few objects, remains," said Wafa.The final convoy of rebels withdrew after a day-long delay blamed on fighters innorthern Syria blocking an aid convoy destined for two pro-regime towns besiegedby opposition fighters in Aleppo province.The delivery had been pledged as part of an exchange that eventually saw some2,000 people, mainly rebels, leave the Old City with a guarantee of safe passage.Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said "we have completed the evacuation of armedmen from the Old City of Homs," referring to the withdrawal, which beganWednesday.Most left Wednesday and Thursday, but buses carrying the last 250 rebels weredelayed till Friday because fighters not involved in the deal blocked the pledgedflow of food supplies into the Shiite towns of Nubol and Zahraa, said the SyrianObservatory for Human Rights.As the aid convoys entered Zahraa Friday, the last rebels in Homs were finallyallowed to leave.Barazi said negotiations were also well advanced for rebels to leave the Waelneighbourhood, their only remaining holdout in Homs, in the coming weeks.The governor said the fighters and some of the civilians evacuated with them hadbeen bussed out to the opposition-held town of Dar al-Kabira, 20 kilometres (13miles) north of Homs.- 'No roof, no walls' -State news agency SANA quoted Barazi as saying government troops had entered theOld City on Friday and began clearing it of explosives planted by the rebels.Jaqueline Fawwaz, aged 30, was also returning to her old neighbourhood of
Hamidiyeh."I had seen on Facebook that my home had been destroyed, but I couldn't believe it.I wanted to see it with my own eyes," she said.A 45-year-old who returned with her husband and did not identify herself said: "Icame to check on my house, but I couldn't find it. I didn't find a roof, I didn't findwalls. I only found this coffee cup, which I will take with me as a souvenir."The neighbourhood was devastated. Shop windows were cracked, and the few wallsremaining upright were riddled with bullets.This is not the first deal between the government and the rebels, but is the first timerebel fighters have withdrawn from an area they controlled after an accord.It is also the first time Syria's rebels and security agencies have signed a deal afternegotiations, supervised by the ambassador of key Damascus ally Iran.UN Resident Coordinator Yaacub El Hillo, who was in Homs, welcomed the deal."If the Homs operation... is the implementation of a political solution throughunderstanding, this is encouraging," he told AFP, adding the UN's role had beenrestricted to help build "trust".The government allowed the rebels to withdraw with their personal weapons inreturn for the release of 40 Alawite women and children, an Iranian woman and 30
soldiers held elsewhere in Syria.The army has imposed many sieges in the three-year-old conflict but that of the OldCity of Homs has been by the far longest.Some 2,200 people were killed as near daily bombardment reduced the area to ruins,and people were reduced to surviving on little more than herbs.In other developments, senior UN aid official John Ging accused the regime ofblockading medical supplies from convoys bound for opposition-held areas, whichhe termed an "abomination".But he also said hampering aid was a tactic used by all involved in the Syrian warand said it was up to countries with influence over the rival sides to help break thedeadlock.And US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel will fly to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israelnext week for talks expected to focus on Syria and on Iran's nuclear programme,officials said.