3:35 am - Thursday November 5, 2015

Syria crisis: Homs awaits food and medicine deliveries

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The UN and aid agencies are hoping to deliver food and medicine to some 3,000 civilians trapped in Homs, Syria.

The aid convoys are due to enter on Saturday on the second day of a temporary ceasefire in Homs between government forces and rebels.

On Friday more than 80 people were evacuated from rebel-held areas which have been under siege for 18 months.

Many of the evacuees looked frail and exhausted – some said they had not eaten bread for five months.

Large areas of Homs – Syria’s third largest city dubbed “the capital of the revolution” against President Bashar al-Assad – have been reduced to rubble by fighting between rebels and government forces.

Many neighbourhoods lie in ruins and activists say people have survived on little more than olives for weeks.

The situation in besieged districts of the city since June 2012 was discussed during peace talks in Geneva a week ago, but the humanitarian aid deal was actually struck between the governor of Homs and the UN resident co-ordinator in Syria.

The Syrian government is making no connection between the Homs agreement and the peace talks, but it was first mooted by the mediator there, Lakhdar Brahimi, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut, Lebanon.

The agreement’s success so far has cautiously improved the diplomatic atmosphere, our correspondent adds.

Another round of talks is scheduled to begin on Monday and the Syrian government has confirmed it will attend.

‘A milestone’

Reports of how long this truce will be in force are confused, with Damascus ally Russia saying three days and activist groups saying four.

The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, said UN teams “have pre-positioned food, medical and other basic supplies for immediate delivery… we hope to send this aid on Saturday morning”.

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