UN to evacuate Homs civilians Friday, deliver aid Saturday

February 07, 2014 - 1:00:50 pm

BEIRUT: A promised aid delivery to besieged rebel-held areas of Homs will not take place until Saturday after an evacuation of civilians on Friday, the Syrian city's governor told AFP.

Coaches were set to enter the rebel enclave in late morning under UN supervision to bring out nearly 200 civilians who want to escape an army blockade that has lasted more than 600 days, governor Talal Barazi said in an interview.

"This morning at 6am or 0400 GMT, a team from the provincial government, the United Nations and the Red Crescent headed to the rebel-held Old City to oversee the departure of civilians and their transport to their chosen destinations," Barazi said.

"According to our advice from the UN, the number of people expected to leave today (Friday) is nearly 200," he said, adding that the operation was running at least two hours later than planned because of logistical hitches.

"It will take us another two hours or more before the first civilians begin coming out," he said.

"Tomorrow (Saturday), the first consignment of food and other relief supplies will reach those in need in the Old City."

Under a surprise deal struck by the UN on Thursday, the Syrian government agreed to a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting around the rebel-held enclave in the city centre to deliver desperately needed aid and evacuate civilians who want to leave.

The relief supplies had been held up in a UN warehouse in a government-held area of the city just kilometres (miles) away for months while the negotiations for relief access dragged on.

At least 1,200 children, women and elderly people are among some 2,500 civilians who have been trapped under siege, surviving on little but olives, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says. (AFP)