Syrian government forces are in full control of the last rebel enclave in Syria's largest province after "overpowering terrorism" following the evacuation of thousands of armed men and civilians, an officer told state-run TV Tuesday.
Militants in a number of towns and villages in the provinces of Homs and Hama withdrew after they agreed to leave to other parts of Syria, or surrendered to government forces and remained in the area, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement by the Syrian Army's General Command.
Hundreds of people gathered in the centre of the town of Talbiseh in Homs province to welcome the return of government security forces and attend a flag-raising ceremony on the main square. According to the agreement, Russian Federation military police were to deploy in the evacuated areas.
Rebels were in control of northern rural Homs for years.
The armed factions, which the government systematically refers to as "terrorists", were transferred to Idlib province, which still largely escapes regime control.
The UK-based observatory said that some 34,500 people, militants and their families, left the area as part of the deal.
"As of today, there is not one gunman left, no weapons left in the whole of Homs province", said Talal Barazai, the province's governor.
Pockets of extremist militants from the Daesh terrorist group are however still thought to be active on the province's scarcely-populated far eastern edge.
The governor vowed that the Damascus-Hama highway would reopen "in the coming days".
With Iranian and Russian support, the Syrian government has reconquered swathes of territory it lost following the outbreak of the conflict in 2011.
Units from the Syrian Army and other government forces have been looking to build on their impressive territorial gains in Damascus' East Ghouta region, via operation Damascus Steel, and are continuing to oust Daesh* terrorists from their remaining positions in south Damascus.
Syria's civil war has killed more than 450,000 people and displaced 11 million from their homes.