Syria: Hopes for more evacuations from Homs

Aid organisations in Syria are hoping to evacuate more civilians from Homs after a ceasefire in the Old City was extended by a further three days.
Some 450 left on Monday. The city has been under siege for 18 months.
More than 1,100 people have been able to leave since Friday under a truce agreed by the local governor and the UN. Meanwhile, talks between the government and the opposition are set to continue in Geneva.
International mediators in Geneva will try to negotiate greater access for humanitarian aid in Syria – as well as an end to the ongoing violence.
The first round of talks ended last month with no firm agreements and both sides trading insults.

The second round opened on Monday with separate meetings between UN envoy Lakhdar Brahim and the two sides.
The delegations are again meeting face-to-face on Tuesday, although discussions will still go through the UN mediator.
More than 1,000 people have left Homs since a truce began on Friday
The opposition wants the government to commit in writing to the 2012 Geneva Communique, which called for the formation of a transitional administration with full executive authority.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government has ruled out any transfer of power.
On the ground, efforts are continuing to evacuate hundreds more women, children and elderly people from Homs, amid mortar fire and shooting.
Matthew Hollingworth, Syria director for the UN’s World Food Programme, told the BBC “the floodgates have opened” as many more people try to leave.

“The levels of destitution inside the Old City are like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he said.
“People are living in tunnels underground, moving between shells of buildings to find roots to eat – there has been little food for many, many months now.”
UN aid chief Valerie Amos welcomed the extension of a three-day truce on Monday.
But she also confirmed that 11 people were killed after the relief operation was “deliberately targeted”. It is unclear who was responsible for the attack.
She said that many of those who had left the city so far appeared traumatised and weak after enduring many months of siege, under bombardment and with little food or medical care.

The Syrian Red Crescent confirmed the latest evacuation figures on Twitter.
Syria’s civil conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2011 and has driven 9.5 million people from their homes.
Although the situation in Homs was discussed during the first round of talks in Geneva, the truce was actually agreed between Homs governor Talal Barazi and the UN resident co-ordinator in Syria.

Writing in the UK’s Independent newspaper, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 – when more than 8,000 men and boys were killed in a Bosnian town – could be repeated in the Old City of Homs.
He said it was time to “turn up the heat” on the Syrian government to demand “full and unimpeded humanitarian access” to areas of the country in desperate need.
However, Russia and China failed to attend a meeting in New York to discuss a new UN Security Council resolution calling for greater access for humanitarian aid on Monday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed the draft resolution as one-sided and “detached from reality”, according to Interfax news agency.
The Syrian government has acknowledged that some of those evacuated from Homs on Sunday were detained after they left.
A Syrian information ministry spokesman told the BBC that 103 “militants” had been detained for security checks, but had since been released.
But other reports suggest the men have not been freed.

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