DAMASCUS: A deal between Syria's government and rebels for opposition fighters to leave the Old City of Homs will be implemented in the next 48 hours, the provincial governor said Monday.
"We will begin the application of the initiative in the coming 48 hours depending on the situation on the ground," Homs governor Talal al-Barazi told AFP.
"I hope that things will go smoothly, in which case the initiative will be completed quickly," he added.
The agreement involves the fate of about 2,250 fighters, civilians and injured people, according to the opposition.
They have been trapped in the neighbourhoods under government siege for nearly two years, and will be granted safe passage out under the accord.
"We have agreed that they will head towards Talbisseh and Dar al-Kabira," Barazi said, referring to two rebel districts in the north of Homs province.
The governor refused to describe the plan as a "deal" preferring to use the term "arrangement" instead and said various logistical issues had been tackled.
"An appropriate route, the people who will be present at the departure and arrival points to ensure the security of the convoy, the security points on the route and the removal of the mines placed by the rebels in the Old City," he said, referring to the challenges.
"We have to prepare properly because if this is successful, we will be able to continue in Waer," he said.
Waer will be the only remaining rebel area in Homs after the evacuation of the besieged Old City and surrounding areas.
Several hundred thousand people live there, including thousands displaced from other areas.
Rebel fighters have said that the deal involves the freeing of 70 Lebanese and Iranian prisoners being held by the rebel Islamic Front alliance in the northern province of Aleppo, as well as the entry of aid to two Shiite pro-regime villages under rebel siege in the same province.
Barazi denied the existence of Iranian hostages but said all initiatives between the rebels and government involved efforts to seek the release of hostages and the entry of humanitarian aid.
On the ground Monday, state media said rockets have slammed into a government-held district in the northern city of Aleppo, killing 9 people.
The SANA state news agency said that the overnight attack occurred in Aleppo's residential neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Rebels fighting to oust Assad from power have frequently fired mortars and rockets into cities that are under control of his forces.
Aleppo is Syria's largest city and it has been divided between government- and opposition-held areas since rebels launched an offensive there in mid-2012, capturing whole neighborhoods and large parts of territory outside the city and along the border with Turkey.
In the past months, government forces have been relentlessly shelling Aleppo's opposition districts with aircraft and artillery.