GENEVA, June 20 – Aid teams stood ready today to enter the contested Syrian city of Homs to evacuate people trapped and wounded by 10 days of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Both sides had agreed to a temporary truce, the International Committee of the Red Cross said from Geneva.
Teams from the ICRC and its partner the Syrian Red Crescent were ready to go into Homs as soon as possible, pending final arrangements.
“Fighting has been raging for more than 10 days between the Syrian Army and armed opposition groups in several neighbourhoods of Homs city,” said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s regional head of operations.
“Hundreds of civilians are stuck in the old city of Homs, unable to leave and find refuge in safer areas, because of the ongoing armed confrontations.”
Pro-opposition Homs residents said rebels and troops were still locked in fierce battles this evening in the neighbourhoods the ICRC wanted to enter.
“They are still firing mortars and missiles into the city and there is heavy fighting in al-Qusour, al-Qarabis and al-Khalidiya,” said activist Abu Yazen.
Homs has been at the centre of the 15-month revolt against Assad and became the focus of world concern in February and March, when opposition-held neighbourhoods endured weeks of government bombardments and sniper fire in which hundreds of people were killed.
A Homs resident said a similar evacuation agreement was reached a few days ago but collapsed when shots were fired by Assad’s forces. The government said yesterday it was trying to evacuate civilians and blamed rebel fighters for obstructing efforts to get people out safely. – Reuters