Syria crisis: Evacuation operation in Homs begins

 

"Food and water is so short inside... Look at me I am just bones"

Emergency officials have evacuated 83 civilians from the city of Homs in Syria, according to the United Nations.

Buses were able to enter the rebel-held Old City after both sides agreed to a three-day pause in the fighting.

Up to 3,000 civilians are thought to be trapped in Homs.

The UN-negotiated ceasefire between Syrian forces and rebels should also allow food and medical aid to reach Homs on Saturday.

Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the people able to leave were children, women and the elderly.

'Malnourished'

They were "delivered to places of their choice, escorted by United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff", he said.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Programme told Reuters that many of those evacuated appeared malnourished.

"They were living on leaves and grass and olives and whatever they could find," said Elisabeth Byrs.

The first busload of 12 elderly men and women were taken to the premises of the governor of Homs.

Men sitting on a bus pose for a photograph as they evacuate the battleground city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 Many of those evacuated on Friday were elderly
Evacuated residents from a besieged area of Homs eat after their arrival to the area under government control February 7, 2014 The Homs residents were given food when they arrived in the area under government control
Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent assist a wounded man evacuated from a besieged area of Homs, after his arrival to the area under government control (February 7, 2014) Some of those brought out first were in need of medical attention

BBC Arabic's Assaf Abboud in Homs says the evacuated people were given meals and drinks and were taken for medical checks.

They told journalists that there are more people who are still trapped in the city and who want to be evacuated.

On Saturday, Syrian authorities and the UN will discuss the delivery of medical and food aid in line with their agreement.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator Yacoub El Hillo oversaw Friday's evacuation operation.

"UN teams have pre-positioned food, medical and other basic supplies for immediate delivery as soon as the first group of civilians are out and we hope to send this aid on Saturday morning," he said in a statement.

Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent assist a man evacuated from a besieged area of Homs, after his arrival to the area under government control (February 7, 2014) The Syrian Arab Red Crescent took part in the operation
A bus transports residents from a besieged area of Homs to the area under government control (February 7, 2014) A temporary truce allowed buses to go in to the besieged area of the Old City

Parts of Homs Old City have been under army siege since June 2012.

Many neighbourhoods lie in ruins and activists say people have survived on little more than olives for weeks.

The situation in besieged districts of Homs was discussed during peace talks in Geneva a week ago.

Another round of talks is scheduled to begin on 10 February and the Syrian government has confirmed it will attend.

'First step'

Earlier on Friday, a BBC reporter in Homs said six buses arrived with three UN vehicles and six Red Crescent ambulances to pick up women, children, and elderly people.

Homs governor Talal Barazi described the atmosphere as "positive" ahead of the planned evacuation, which had run slightly behind schedule because of logistical hitches.

"We hope this first step will succeed and will continue tomorrow and after tomorrow [Saturday], to ensure safe exit to all civilians who want to leave the Old City," he said.

The Syrian foreign ministry said that under the deal - reached between the governor of Homs and the UN resident co-ordinator in Syria - "innocent civilians" would be allowed out of besieged areas.

"We are very happy that finally we found the possibility to bring out these people and to provide those who are needy inside old Homs with humanitarian aid they deserve," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.

"The only precondition is that this aid and the help should not go to terrorists or armed groups."

Civilians carry their belongings as they walk towards a meeting point to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs (7 Feb 2014) Much of Homs lies in ruins after intense bombardment

Homs - Syria's third largest city - has been a key battleground in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Much of the city initially fell under rebel fighters' control, but government forces have since retaken many areas, forcing the opposition into the Old City.

The UN says more than 100,000 people have died since the uprising began.

BBC map of besieged areas in Homs
 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 235.

    234. Yoda
    Quite and they wonder why an army in a position of strength doesn't allow terrorists to get out, if the rebels were the good guys they would have let all the innocent go and stay to be exterminated but clearly they are cowards sheltering behind women and children who it cannot be proved are all innocent either.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 234.

    232. Yes, the guilty will be sat there waiting for a UN war crimes officer to arrive. I reckon they'll have about a 6 year wait.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 233.

    203.
    i am no subject
    But how did it all started? Things were fine till the rebels (really no rebels but brutal foreign terrorists) turned up. Then it got bad as it would, but how comes Assad was fine all those years before then?

    I think you got the story wrong, Assad started the killing & torturing, the world done nothing & left a vacuum for rebels etc to fill, & Russia stood by the Psycho!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 232.

    As we have seen in the middle East before its not that a regime kills its own or those of a neighbour its how quickly they can do it that counts. If Assad had wiped out all the opposition within 24hrs or a week nothing would have happened as nothing did when the Saudis went into Bahrain to shut down protest against a minority ruler. Hopefully its only the innocent getting out, we will have to see.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 231.

    226 In 2006 the US occupied Iraq for about 1000 days.At that rate there'd have been 600 dead a day every day for three years.The bodies would have piled up like cordwood.Last estimate I heard was a total of about 130,000 and most of them were either the insurgents or people killed by the insurgents.But have no fear, there are plenty more insurgents where those came from.Hardly a day goes by....

 

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