Red Crescent brings first batch of aid to besieged Homs despite mortar fire
9 February 2014, 11:03
The Syrian Red Crescent Saturday delivered a first batch of much-needed aid to civilians trapped for nearly two years in rebel-held areas of Homs city, despite coming under fire from mortars. The long-delayed humanitarian mission was in its second day after the evacuation on Friday of 83 children, women and elderly people who have survived more than 600 days under a choking army blockade.
The evacuation and aid delivery was made possible by a surprise UN-brokered deal between the government and rebels to observe a three-day 'humanitarian pause' in hostilities.
The truce - due to be observed on Sunday when more people are set to be evacuated - had eluded mediators in last month's fruitless first round of peace talks between government and opposition delegations in Switzerland.
The warring sides are due return to peace talks in Geneva Monday.
After a day of violence in the city, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said it had finally distributed food and medical aid to civilians in the Old City neighbourhood.
The protracted siege has left residents starving, with people surviving on little other than olives and wild cereals, activists say.
'Although the team was shelled and fired upon we managed to deliver 250 food parcels, 190 hygiene kits and chronic diseases medicines,' the Red Crescent said on Twitter.
The aid had been held up for months in a UN warehouse in a nearby government-controlled area.
The UN says it wants to distribute emergency rations for 2,500 people, along with medical kits, bedding, cash and other support for those leaving or those choosing to stay in the Old City.
Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi meanwhile told state news agency SANA that aid was distributed to two neighbourhoods, Bustan al-Diwan and Hamidiyeh.
UN disappointed by attack on Syria aid convoy
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expressed deep disappointment on Saturday after an aid convoy came under fire in a besieged rebel district of the Syrian city Homs, though she vowed to keep pushing to deliver humanitarian assistance to Syria's neediest.
'I am deeply disappointed that the three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the parties to the conflict was broken today and aid workers deliberately targeted,' Amos said in a statement.
'Today's events serve as a stark reminder of the dangers that civilians and aid workers face every day acrossSyria,' she said.
Saturday's attack threatened a United Nations-led operation to bring food and medicine to 2,500 people in Homsand evacuate civilians trapped by months of fighting in the Syrian city.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said mortar fire landed close to its convoy and shots were fired at its trucks, wounding one of its drivers.
'I continue to call on those engaged in this brutal conflict to respect the humanitarian pause, ensure the protection of civilians and facilitate the safe delivery of aid,' she said. 'The United Nations and our humanitarian partners will not be deterred from doing the best we can to bring aid to those needing our help.'
Syrian authorities blamed the attacks on rebels but opposition activists said President Bashar al-Assad's forces were responsible for them, as well as earlier mortar fire that delayed the start of the operation on Saturday morning.
The humanitarian deal for Homs was the first concrete result of talks launched two weeks ago in Geneva to try to end the country's nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed over 136,000 people.
Aid convoy workers safely left Homs after being fired on - Red Crescent
A joint aid team of United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent workers safely left the Old City of Homs on Saturday after their convoy came under fire as they delivered humanitarian supplies, the Red Crescent said.
In a statement on Twitter, it said one truck driver suffered a minor injury and two damaged trucks had been left inside the Old City.
Four Red Cross employees injured as trucks enter besieged Syria areas
Four employees of the Syrian Red Cross have been injured during the humanitarian operation in Homs, Al Mayadeen TV Channel reported on Saturday. One of the convoy's trucks has been attacked by entering the Old Town in the area of Al-Sa'a al-Jadida Square. Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi told Al Mayadeen that one of the militants' groups had violated a ceasefire agreement.
'It has not been subordinated to field commanders with whom an agreement was reached,' the governor said.
The incident did not stop the delivery of foodstuffs that continued in residential areas. According to al-Barazi, the Syrian authorities wait for a bus carrying evacuated residents.
Voice of Russia, Reuters, AFP
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