02/07/2014, 00.00
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Humanitarian operation in Homs, a city under siege

Damascus and the UN agreed to release civilians from the besieged city and to bring aid to the residents. Temporary cease- fire invoked, which rebels should also respect. New battles and more deaths in Aleppo. Problem of Assad remains greatest obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Syrian regime and the UN have concluded an agreement for the "imminent" release of hundreds of civilians from the central districts of Homs, as well as the immediate distribution of humanitarian aid to the population that is starving.

The area of the old city of Homs, in rebel hands for more than 600 days - since June 2012 - is under siege from the regular army.

Eye witness accounts given by the population and by a Jesuit priest tell of dramatic situations, marked by hunger, lack of medicines, constant bombardments.

The agreement is the first humanitarian gesture of the regime after the first round of talks in Geneva II. At the talks, the UN had pushed for humanitarian corridors in different parts of Syria including Homs, but the two sides failed to reach any agreement. The Syrian government states that it is in favor of helping the civilian population, but not the armed rebels and "terrorists".

Now the state news agency Sana said that "Talal al- Barazi , the governor of Homs and the UN coordinator Yaacoub el Hillo have reached an agreement to secure the release of innocent civilians from the old town and the entry of humanitarian assistance to the civilians who choose to stay". To implement this, we need a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting. The UN has confirmed that the "humanitarian pause" will "provide vital assistance to about 2,500 civilians." The rebels have so far made no statement, but it is thought that they will also observe the "pause".

The agreement between the UN and Damascus does not set any date , but it is thought that the humanitarian operation will begin today.

The announcement of the ceasefire comes as the war continues in other parts of the country. In recent days, the army has tried to regain the area east of Aleppo, currently under the insurgents. According to the Syrian Observatory, at least 250 people, including 76 children have died in the bombing so far. The rebels, in turn, stormed the central prison and freed hundreds of detainees.

In March, the fourth year of the war will begin. To date it has caused the death of more than 130 thousand people and destroyed the economic foundations of the country. The peace talks held in Montreux and Geneva in late January have provided slim hopes. They are expected to resume February 10, but President Assad has not yet taken any decision on the matter.

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