Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Homs city May 9, 2014. (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
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Homs residents return to devastated homesHundreds of Syrians, some snapping photos with their cellphones, wandered down paths carved out of rubble in the old quarters of Homs Friday, getting their first glimpse of the horrendous destruction that two years of fighting inflicted on rebel-held parts of the city. Under a deal struck this week, the government assumed control of the old quarters, while in return some 2,000 rebel fighters were granted safe passage to opposition areas north of Homs.Even before the last rebels departed, government bulldozers were clearing paths through the heaviest rubble in Homs' battle-scarred districts Friday.The Greek Orthodox bishop in Homs, George Abu Zakhm, called the situation there "catastrophic". He said all 11 churches in Homs' old quarter had been either heavily damaged or destroyed. Islamic extremists have desecrated churches elsewhere in Syria, but there was no immediate evidence to suggest that opposition fighters were responsible for the damage to Christian sites in central Homs, where every building bore the scars of fighting.
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