DAMASCUS, May 2 (Xinhua) -- A ceasefire reportedly went into effect on Friday between the Syrian government troops and the armed rebels in the contested old quarter of the central city of Homs, Arab TV stations and activists said.
The ceasefire is part of a deal between the rebels and the government troops, under which the rebels would be allowed to leave their positions to areas in the northern countryside of Homs with their light weapons only within 24 hours.
The rebels have agreed upon the ceasefire following two weeks of heavy shelling by the government troops on the rebel-held districts in old Homs, which has been besieged by the latter since two years ago.
The Syrian army started a wide-scale offensive to wrest back control over the few remaining rebel-held districts in old Homs two weeks ago.
The ceasefire and the rebels' evacuation would be considered the latest victory of the Syrian army in Homs, allowing the Syrian troops to fully secure the city. Reports said that between 700 and 900 armed rebels, mostly Syrians, are stationing in old Homs.
Homs, Syria's third largest province, was one of the first provinces to sympathize with anti-government movement in Syria. The rebels there have taken considerable swathes of land, but the government troops have stripped them of their territory over the past year.
The country's three-year crisis started in mid-March 2011, when anti-government protesters took to the street calling for reforms, but rapidly evolved into a civil war. So far more than 150,000 people have been killed and about one third of Syria's population forced to leave their homes.
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