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HUNDREDS of jihadists are leaving their last major stronghold in Syria under the terms of a surrender agreement giving them safe passage to Idlib in the country’s north.
Islamists and their families are being bused out of territory between Homs and Hama, allowing President Bashar al-Assad’s government to regain control of a further chunk of central Syria.
The agreement was reached after lengthy negotiations between the Free Syrian Army and Russian representatives, which ended last week. While heavy arms were handed over, the jihadists were allowed to keep light weapons including rifles.
Reports from the ground in Rastan said the Islamists had no choice but to surrender after suffering heavy bombardment by the Russian air force.
Russian forces have moved in to protect the largely Sunni population from possible reprisal attacks by nearby Alawites.
The surrender represents a decisive victory for Mr Assad in Syria’s seven-year war.
One consequence is that a major road between Damascus and Aleppo has reopened, enabling government forces to link up and cutting off a major supply route for the opposition.
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