HOMS, Syria — Syria's government and rebels agreed to a ceasefire Friday in the battleground city of Homs aimed at allowing hundreds of fighters holed up in its old quarters to evacuate, a move that would surrender almost total control of the city once known as the "capital of the revolution" to President Bashar Assad's forces.
If rebel fighters do leave, the capture of Homs, Syria's third largest city, would be a significant victory for Assad, weeks before presidential elections set for June 3.
The 48-hour cease-fire deal, reported by opposition activists and a pro-government TV station, came after weeks of unprecedented pounding of rebel-held districts by government forces. In a sign the truce came into effect, an Associated Press team in Homs on Friday said it was unusually quiet, with no shots fired from either side.
Still, the deal could potentially collapse if there are last-minute disputes over the terms of evacuation and some rebels decide to hold out.
One Homs-based opposition activist said it was a bitter moment for the rebels who have been barricaded in 13 neighborhoods around Homs' historic center.
"This isn't what we wanted, but it's all we could get," Beibars Tilawi told The Associated Press in a Skype interview. "The regime wanted to take control of the heart of the revolution." Evacuations may start on Saturday, he said.
Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more details.