Syrian rebels have begun withdrawing from the last big, besieged enclave that they held in the war-torn country.Hundreds of fighters have been boarding buses along with their families in a pocket of territory lying in central Syria, between Homs and Hama.

Under a deal with the government’s Russian allies, the militants have been given safe passage to opposition-controlled territory in northern Syria.

It is the latest rebel enclave to give in after a long siege.The only significant areas of Syria still in rebel hands lie along its borders in the far north and the far south.

Rebel heavy weapons are being surrendered but rebel fighters are being allowed to leave with light arms, on buses going to rebel-controlled Idlib province in the north-east.

The evacuation is expected to take two days and see thousands of people leave on the buses, which snaked out of Rastan.