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UN resumes evacuations from Syria's Homs

Vehicles deliver aid and will take more people out of besieged neighbourhoods after one-day suspension of operations.

Last updated: 12 Feb 2014 10:59
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About 3,000 people were trapped in rebel-held areas in Homs for more than 18 months [Reuters]

Operations to evacuate civilians from besieged parts of the city of Homs and deliver aid have resumed after being suspended for a day, the provincial governor said.

"At 11:00 am (09:00 GMT), food aid was able to enter the Old City of Homs," Talal Barazi told AFP news agency.

"The vehicles that are taking in the aid will bring out a number of civilians, including 20 Christians from the Bustan al-Diwan neighbourhood," he added.

The Syrian Red Crescent said earlier on Wednesday that a group of families from Bustan al-Diwan had requested evacuation but no safe route out had yet been found for them.

 

Humanitarian operations targeting besieged neighbourhoods of the Old City of Homs began on Friday, after the UN mediated an agreement and a ceasefire between the government and opposition.

Since then, more than 1,150 people have been evacuated, many suffering malnutrition after surviving on little more than olives and wild plants after food supplies dwindled during a siege of more than 18 months.

Aid is also being taken into the besieged districts, which are under rebel control, including food parcels and wheat provided by the World Food Programme.

On Tuesday, Barazi said operations had been suspended due to unspecified "logistical difficulties".

An estimated 3,000 people had been trapped in parts of the central city of Homs, much of which has been devastated by ongoing violence between rebels and the army.

Humanitarian groups have welcomed the operations, but the UN expressed concern on Tuesday about the fate of hundreds of men and boys taken for questioning by authorities after being evacuated.

A spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency UNHCR said 336 male evacuees aged between 15 and 55 had been taken in for questioning.

A total of 42 were released, but the remainder were still in the hands of the authorities, she said.

Russian veto

In a separate development on Wednesday, Russia said it would veto a UN resolution on humanitarian access in its current form, denouncing the draft as an effort to lay a foundation for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

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In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Moscow had already dismissed the Western-Arab draft debated in the Security Council on Tuesday as a non-starter, but a senior diplomat's unequivocal condemnation indicated Russia would seek major changes before dropping its opposition, the Reuters news agency reported.

"Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in Geneva, according to state-run news agency RIA.

"It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through."

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