Syrian military seizes key swath of land in country’s center

BEIRUT — Syria’s military said Wednesday it has restored government control over a large area in central Syria, securing a power station, a refinery, and a cement factory after uprooting the armed opposition.

With the latest military victory, Syrian government forces secure roads between the country’s three main cities — Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs — for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

The surrender in northern Homs and southern Hama adds to what has been described as one of the largest population shifts in Syria since the conflict began.


Since March, around 200,000 people were forced to relocate to other parts of the country as part of surrender deals after crippling sieges and bombardment by government forces, according to the United Nations, which says the practice amounts to forced displacement.

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More than 30,000 have left northern Homs and southern Hama in the last few days alone, while the majority of the displaced came from the eastern Ghouta suburbs near Damascus.

‘‘The brave armed forces, with support from allies, have completed the clearing of 1,200 square kilometers (463 square miles) in rural Northern Homs and Southern Hama, and have restored security to 65 villages and towns,’’ said Brigadier General Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on Syrian television Wednesday.

The government announcement came after the last batch of rebels and opposition left from the area following a deal reached earlier this month with rebels who were in control for years.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the last of seven batches of displaced left the area Wednesday in a convoy.


The departures brought the total evacuated to 34,500 people, including fighters and civilians, who have departed to other rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

A small pocket in southern Homs province, near the border with Iraq, is controlled by US-backed rebels.