Evacuations, aid delivery resume in Syria’s besieged city of Homs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 7:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 9:16am

Watch: Chaotic evacuations from besieged Homs

Operations to evacuate civilians from besieged parts of Syria’s Homs and deliver aid resumed on Wednesday after being suspended for a day, the provincial governor said.

“At 11am, food aid was able to enter the Old City of Homs,” Talal Barazi told reporters.

“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 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.