Homs evacuations resume as 217 more leave area

Homs evacuations resume as 217 more leave area
Thu Feb 13, 2014 08:52:04

The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid to besieged militant-held areas of Syria's third city Homs resumed Wednesday, as peace talks in Geneva struggled to make headway.

A total of 217 civilians who wanted to escape more than 18 months of tight blockade were evacuated from the militants’ enclave on Wednesday, after the relief operation was suspended the previous day, provincial Governor Talal al-Barazi told AFP.

"The operation went well and smoothly," Barazi said.

The evacuations bring the total number of people given safe passage out since Friday to more than 1,400.

They came hours after 190 food parcels and 4,700 kilograms (10,340 pounds) of flour were taken into the besieged militants’ enclave, the Syrian Red Crescent's head of operations Khaled Erksoussi said.

"There are children there, and this is very heartbreaking, that this is the first time they see a banana," Erksoussi said.

Red Crescent staff backed by UN agencies began evacuating some of the estimated 3,000 civilians trapped in besieged areas on Friday under a UN-brokered humanitarian truce between the government and the foreign backed militant groups.

Concern has grown, however, over the fate of some 336 male evacuees aged between 15 and 55, who UN officials say were detained for questioning by the security services as they left Homs.

According to Barazi, 111 of them have since been released.

The evacuations have also been marred by violence in violation of the promised truce, with aid convoys coming under fire and 14 people killed in shelling.

Barazi said that with the relief operation due to end Wednesday, a meeting was to take place to discuss the possibility of prolonging the truce in Homs and continuing aid.

The operation has been welcomed internationally, and is providing desperately needed relief for civilians who have described surviving on little more than olives and wild plants.


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