BEIRUT – The planned evacuation of fighters from rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Homs was delayed Saturday, activists said, though a cease-fire still was holding in the country’s third-largest city.
Rebels in the city agreed Friday to surrender the territory in exchange for safe passage to other opposition-held areas. The agreement came after a blockade by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces caused widespread hunger in rebel-held parts of the city, which have been hit relentlessly by government artillery and airstrikes.
Local activist Samer al-Homsi and three other activists said it wasn’t clear why Syrian forces weren’t allowing the first phase of several hundred rebel fighters to leave.
One Homs-based activist said rebels were gathering wounded fighters, so they could be taken out as a first priority, beginning Sunday. Others believed the delays were over a plan to allow food and aid into two blockaded areas: one by rebels near Aleppo, and another by pro-government forces near Homs.
Activists also said a prisoner exchange deal could be delaying the move.
Homs was once known as the capital of the Syrian revolution for its fierce opposition to Assad’s rule.