BEIRUT — Syrian activists say hundreds of rebels have started evacuating their last bastions in the central city of Homs under a ceasefire deal struck last week with government forces.

The activists say dozens of rebels boarded five buses that arrived at the police command on the edge of the rebel-held areas ahead of the evacuation.

An activist who goes by the name of Abu Yassin al-Homsi said up to 1,200 fighters were expected to leave the city Wednesday, handing it over to President Bashar Assad’s forces.

In exchange for their evacuation, activists say opposition fighters will allow aid into two northern pro-government villages besieged by rebel.

The fighters will be taken a few kilometers (miles) north to the towns of Talbiseh and al-Dar al-Kabira on the northern edge of Homs province.

The buses were accompanied by Syrian army officers. Homs governor Talal Barazi confirmed that the rebels have started leaving Homs.

In exchange for their evacuation, activists say opposition fighters will allow aid into two northern pro-government villages besieged by the rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Organization for Human Rights said that the road to the besieged villages of Nubul and Zahra were opened by the rebels at the same time the evacuation was taking place.

Homs, in the central western plains of Syria, was one of the first cities to rise up against his rule three years ago, earning it the nickname of the “capital of the revolution.” After waves of anti-Assad protests by its residents, it was the first city largely taken over by armed rebels as the uprising evolved into outright civil war.

Ever since, Assad’s forces have been engaged in grueling urban warfare trying to wrest it back. For the past months, rebels were isolated and blockaded inside a string of Homs neighborhoods centered around its historic old quarters, battered by heavy government airstrikes and artillery.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.