83 civilians evacuated from besieged Syrian city

Updated: 2014-02-08 09:46


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UNITED NATIONS - More than 80 people were evacuated from Syria's embattled Homs City on Friday after having survived there for nearly two years, and more people are expected to leave under a three-day truce allowing people out and aid in, a UN spokesman said.

"The United Nations can confirm that 83 people were evacuated from Old Homs City today, during a three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the parties to the conflict," Farhan Haq, the acting deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing.

"The people -- women, children and the elderly -- were then delivered to places of their choice, escorted by (the) United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff," Haq said.

UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, welcomed Friday's operation as "a breakthrough, and a small but important step towards compliance with international humanitarian law," he said.

"Ms. Amos continues to call for the safe and voluntary evacuation of all civilians and for full access for humanitarian workers to help people caught in similar situations across Syria," he said.

The Homs evacuation is part of a deal brokered by the United Nations between rebels and government forces after months of negotiations that will also see delivery of desperately needed food and medicines.

The United Nations, often with relief convoys mere miles away from the civilians under siege, has long demanded that the warring parties grant full humanitarian access. But the warring sides refused to give the green light until Thursday when a so-called " humanitarian pause" was announced for Homs, where UN trucks have been on standby for weeks only 12 km from the Old City.

The operation went smoothly for the most part, though there were isolated reports of gunfire heard during the day.