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February 07, 2014

Elderly, Children Evacuated from Blockaded Syrian City

The United Nations says 83 Syrian civilians, including the elderly and children, were evacuated from rebel-held areas of the city of Homs Friday.

Aid workers escorted frail old men and women draped in blankets as part of a three-day humanitarian pause to let civilians out and help in.

A year-long blockade of Homs by Syrian government forces has created severe food shortages. U.N. relief coordinator Valerie Amos says many sick and wounded civilians remain trapped. She is calling on all sides to grant humanitarian workers full access to Homs and other besieged Syrian cities.

Russia said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government made an agreement with the United Nations Thursday for a three-day cease-fire to allow aid into Homs.



Also Friday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad said the government will take part in the next round of peace talks with the opposition. The new talks are set to open Monday.

The talks, organized by the United States and Russia, have so far made little progress at ending Syria's civil war. More than 130,000 people have been killed and 9 million forced from their homes since the conflict began in 2011.

In Washington, U.S. Homeland Security director Jeh Johnson said Syria has become a matter of homeland security.

Johnson said Friday that Americans, Canadians, and Europeans are heading to Syria to fight. He said extremists are also trying to recruit Westerners, indoctrinate them, and send them back to their home countries on extremist missions.

Johnson and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were in Poland this week for talks with counterparts from six European countries. Johnson says Syria was the number one topic of conversation.