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Some Syrians Evacuated from Rebel-Held Homs

The first trapped civilians were evacuated from the besieged rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Homs on Friday, as the government confirmed that it will attend a second round of peace talks in Geneva.

The United Nations has confirmed that 83 people -- including women, children and the elderly -- were escorted out of Homs's Old City Friday by U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff. They were then taken to locations of their choice.

The U.N. said there were only isolated reports of gunfire during the day, and Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said the operation to get humanitarian aid in and civilians out had gone well so far.


"The first and second buses have arrived, and those leaving the Old City have been received, with all their necessary needs provided, in terms of medical assistance, food and drink. There are various different cases, but the majority of them are not serious.''



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

Activists say at least 2,500 people in the city's old quarters have endured severe food shortages resulting from a lengthy government blockade.



Syria's state-run SANA news agency said the agreement covers "innocent civilians" -- including women, children, the elderly and injured people. The status of men was not immediately clear.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad said on state television Friday Damascus would take part in the next round of peace talks with the opposition, set to be held on February 10.

The talks have so far been unsuccessful at ending the country's civil war. At last month's talks, the government and Western-backed opposition found no common ground on reducing violence or improving humanitarian access.

More than 130,000 people have been killed and 9.5 million displaced since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011.

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