News / Middle East

Governor says 600 Evacuated from Syria's Embattled Homs

United Nations members arrive to the besieged neighborhoods of Homs in Syria, to supply humanitarian aid, Feb. 8, 2014.
United Nations members arrive to the besieged neighborhoods of Homs in Syria, to supply humanitarian aid, Feb. 8, 2014.
Edward Yeranian
The governor of Syria's war-battered city of Homs says that more than 600 people were evacuated Sunday from rebel-held parts of the city.

U.N. and Syrian Red Crescent workers rescued the large group on the third day of a cease-fire between rebels and government forces.  Even so, eyewitness accounts say a number of women and children trying to leave the city were killed and wounded after being hit by mortar shells.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi and Red Crescent officials said they were attempting to extend the rescue effort beyond the three-day period that had been negotiated by the United Nations.  The United Nations says 2,500 people have been stranded by the military siege in Homs since mid-2012.

Barazi said an aid shipment reached Homs, despite reports the road into the old city was mined.  He added sniper fire also hindered the operation.

A U.N. and Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy of armored four-wheel drive vehicles reportedly came under fire for a second day Sunday, after entering Homs to deliver relief supplies.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said she was disappointed by reports aid workers were deliberately targeted.  She called it a stark reminder of the dangers civilians and aid workers face each day in Syria.

U.N. convoy commander Yacoub Helou told journalists any violence will prevent aid from entering the city for a long time.

He pointed out that several rockets came close to causing a disaster (Saturday) and while he can not say who was responsible, anyone who uses arms is trying to harm children, the poor and the old.

Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London tells VOA that U.N. officials are required to work with the Assad government, since it is a U.N. member and continues to officially represent the country.

Shehadi argues that Damascus appears to be using the aid issue to force the international community to deal with it directly, conferring further legitimacy on the Assad government.   

“"The U.N. has no choice, because it can only deal with official channels, and since the regime is still part of the U.N., they have to coordinate with it and support," Shehadi  said. "The Syria regime is holding its own population hostage and starving them until we engage with them, basically.”

A crowd of men worked Sunday to dig survivors from the rubble after Syrian government bombing caused a residential building to collapse in the nearby city of Hama.  Dozens of government soldiers were also killed in Hama after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up near a Syrian Army checkpoint.   

The Syrian government and the opposition blame each other for breaking the cease-fire, which was intended to let in aid and allow civilians to leave.

A year-long blockade of Homs by Syrian government forces has created severe food shortages.

On Saturday, opposition activists said Syrian government forces renewed their assault on the northern city of Aleppo.  

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 15 people were killed when government forces dropped crude explosives called barrel bombs on the city.

The next round of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition is due to open Monday.

The talks, organized by the United States and Russia, have made little progress so far in 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.

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Comment Sorting
by: JKF2 from: Great North (Canada)
February 09, 2014 3:26 PM
It is good to see that a small glimmer of humanity, has been shown in this rescue of 600 victims of a terrible civil war. Much more needs to be done to help the trapped civilians. It is horrendous to see that in the 21rst century this type of inhumanity is allowed to exist. Let us hope that all sides, terrorizing the civilian population, come to reason and humanitarian corridors are established, even on an intermitent basis, to provide the basics of life, and to allow for the extraction of more innocent civilians. It is a little achievement for the UN and the SC, but much and far more needs to be done.

by: Bob Man from: Vancouver Washington
February 09, 2014 9:15 AM
Maybe an airdrop of individual family meals? Use a ribbon to create drag and slow decent instead of an expensive parachute? Cut out the middle man?

by: Anonymous
February 08, 2014 9:34 PM
The headline says 'rocket fire', the body of the article says 'mortar fire'. Which is true?
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
February 09, 2014 3:17 PM
the true is Syria is torn apart because the Muslim fanatic. the fanatic give money ,arm, thugs , woman to destroy the country and make million of innocent people suffer . the true that facing deadly form of ideology that will causing the most catastrophe in the world history set by fanatic whom get most of its money from oil and working in US to feed and support arm that destroy Syria and Libya and Egypt on the list . these fanatic have no morale. they kill innocent people .they use woman for their pleasure and called sexual jihad .
In Response

by: jimmy from: china
February 09, 2014 10:34 AM
you can go and check by yourself.

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