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Around 40,000 Syrians displaced by fighting near Hama - UN

Since a rebel offensive began in the area a week ago, people have fled south and west to Hama city.

FILE: A group of rebels on a tank in Darkoush, Syria. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

About 40,000 people, mainly women and children, have been displaced by fighting northwest of Hama city in Syria, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Since a rebel offensive began in the area a week ago, people have fled south and west to Hama city and to other towns nearby and in neighbouring districts including Homs, Latakia and Tartous, the United Nations said.

The death toll in Syria since 2011.

Hundreds of rebels left their last bastion Homs city on Monday, resuming an evacuation expected to be among the largest of its kind under a Russian-backed deal with the government, state media and a monitor said.

Between 10,000-15,000 rebels and civilians were expected to leave in weekly batches, the Observatory and opposition activists have said.

Although rebels launched their biggest offensive in months last week, they have been on the back foot in Syria since Russia intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad's government in the autumn of 2015.

Over the past year, the government has accelerated its drive to push rebel-held pockets to surrender under evacuation deals similar to the one in force in Homs.

Homs governor Talal Barazi said he expected nearly 1,600 people to depart on Monday for areas held by Turkey-backed rebels north of Aleppo.