Homs, Syria - The first civilians to be evacuated from the besieged city of Homs has left the town, seeking medical attention and food from rescue workers and health officials.
Around 55 residents of Syria's third-largest city - children under 12 years of age, and men over 60 accompanied by women - left their largely destroyed city on a convoy of buses, after a temporary ceasefire agreement was reached on Feburary 6. Younger men and bachelors are deemed more likely to be combatants in the battles that have raged here, and are not yet allowed to leave the city.
The ceasefire deal also allows for aid to be delivered to rebel-held neighbourhoods of the old city, on the condition that such humanitarian assistance not be controlled "by terrorists or armed groups".
"The coming step, which starts [on Saturday] is to evaluate the basic needs of those who are inside and who have not come out in the first batch," said Homs mayor Talal al-Barazi.
"Different types of rescue aid will be sent in there. And, [on Sunday], there will be an arrangement for a second batch of civilians to get out."
Syrian government officials deployed a group of female police officers at barricades separating the rebel-held old city from neighbourhoods controlled by troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
"We, members of the police women's corps, are in this place to search the women," said one officer. "And to deliver them to safe places, and to provide them with food and medical aid they need."