NGO: deal for Syria rebels to withdraw from Homs bastion

The deal was confirmed by an activist on the ground in Homs, which was once known as the ‘capital of the revolution’

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Syria’s government and rebels have reached a deal under which opposition fighters holed up in besieged parts of Homs city will withdraw during a ceasefire, an NGO said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a truce was already in place in the Old City and other rebel-held areas under government siege, and that around 1,000 fighters were expected to withdraw.

“A truce began on Friday in the Old City of Homs and surrounding areas, where there has been fierce fighting between the regime and rebels, with the goal of applying a deal reached between the sides,” the Britain-based monitor said.

“The deal stipulates a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the rebels in the Old City, which has been under siege for two years, to the north of Homs province,” the group added.

“As a result of the deal, the army will retake control of these areas,” it said.

The deal was confirmed by an activist on the ground in Homs, which was once known as the “capital of the revolution” because of the strength of anti-government protests there.

“There is a truce agreement with safe exit for the rebels,” Thaer al-Khalidiyeh told AFP over the Internet.

“The withdrawal has not begun yet and under the agreement those leaving will be able to keep their weapons,” he said.

The agreement comes after government forces began an assault against the few remaining rebel-held areas in the city last month.

Regime troops have laid siege to the Old City and a few surrounding areas for nearly two years, with nearly 3,000 people trapped under the blockade as food and medical supplies dwindled.

In February, a U.N.-Red Crescent operation evacuated around half of those trapped by the siege, and several hundred more have left since then, with around 1,000 fighters still in the rebel-held areas.

If the accord holds and the fighters withdraw, only the neighborhood of Al-Waer, where many of those fleeing besieged areas of Homs took refuge, will remain under rebel control.

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