DAMASCUS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- A total of 500 families started returning to their homes on Saturday in the Beit Jin town south of Syria's capital Damascus, two weeks following the rebels' withdrawal from that area, state news agency SANA reported.
The return of families to Beit Jin in the southwestern countryside of Damascus came after the authorities dismantled the explosive devices left by the rebels ahead of their withdrawal late last month.
Last month, the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee (LLC) withdrew from Beit Jin and other nearby areas in the southwestern countryside of Damascus toward rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib under a deal reached with the army.
Some of the rebels surrendered their weapons and chose to stay in the town as part of the government-backed reconciliation efforts.
The rebels agreed to evacuate after they became besieged by the army in Beit Jin and two other adjacent towns, which were important due to their proximity to the Lebanese border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
SANA said the town was a house to 20,000 people, most of whom fled when the area fell to the rebels six years ago.
When the evacuation ended on Dec. 30, 2017, the entire western countryside of Damascus became liberated from rebels, as the Syrian army has already captured all the towns on the western flank of Damascus.
The first anti-government protests erupted in Western Ghouta in April 2011. In early 2012, the area entered the phase of actual battles.