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Syria aid workers prepare for new Homs evacuations

AFP , Monday 10 Feb 2014
Men sitting on a bus pose for a photograph as they evacuate the battleground city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Aid teams prepared Monday to resume the evacuation of civilians from besieged neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs, a Syrian Red Crescent source told AFP.

A day earlier, the Red Crescent helped evacuate some 600 people from rebel-held areas that have been under army siege for nearly two years.

"Today we will continue the evacuation of civilians via the same routes or new ones," the source said.

"A meeting between the UN and the governor of Homs is underway. In principle, the ceasefire will be extended, and will try to get civilians out as soon as possible," the source added.

He said aid would also be delivered to besieged neighbourhoods of the Old City of Homs and had been loaded into the buses that would take civilians out of the area.

A deal brokered by the UN has allowed aid teams access to Homs for three consecutive days, with a fragile ceasefire in place to allow the humanitarian operation.

But on Sunday, mortar shells hit one of the besieged districts during the evacuation, killing five people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO.

And on Saturday, the group said shelling had targeted an aid convoy.

Activists accused pro-regime militia-men in neighbourhoods bordering the besieged districts for the attacks.

But Syrian state television said "armed terrorist groups" -- regime terminology for rebels -- had fired during the evacuations.

Aid groups gained access to besieged parts of Homs on Friday, evacuating 83 people on the first day of the truce.

On Saturday, the Red Crescent delivered aid despite coming under attack, but evacuations of civilians did not resume until Sunday.

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