Syrian state television said on Friday that the evacuation of civilians from a besieged area of the city of Homs had begun under a humanitarian deal reached earlier this week.
“Moments ago the evacuation of civilian children, women and elderly began,” a bulletin on state television said.
Live footage from Homs showed buses ready to move evacuees after both sides agreed to a temporary truce.
The United Nations had welcomed reports of the agreement on Thursday, although Washington questioned the sincerity of the government’s intentions.
The siege of the old city has gone on for more than a year and activists say 2,500 people are trapped inside the area, struggling with hunger and malnourishment.
They represent only a small fraction of besieged Syrians across the country who are in desperate need of aid.
Speaking to Syrian State Television, Homs governor Talal al-Barazi said the first group included children under 15 years old, men over 55, and women. He said reception centres had been set up to receive and treat people leaving the old city, although those evacuated were free to go wherever they liked.
“We are ready today to receive any number, even it exceeds 400, but according to the United Nations yesterday the expected number is 200, or it could be lower,” he said.
“We hope this first step will succeed and will continue tomorrow and after tomorrow and so on to ensure safe exit to all civilians who want to leave the old city.”
“The atmosphere is positive,” Barazi added.
Delegates from Syria’s warring sides met face to face for the first time at the “Geneva 2” peace conference last week, but were unable to agree anything, even a humanitarian deal for Homs that diplomats had hoped could be a relatively easy first step.
A second round of talks is scheduled for next week.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)
Date created : 2014-02-07