Aid delivered to rebel-held area of Syrian city: Governor
Humanitarian aid deliveries to a rebel-held district of the central Syrian city of Homs has begun under a deal with insurgents, the provincial governor told AFP on Saturday.
The agreement reached on Tuesday will see the city once dubbed “the capital of the revolution” come fully under the control of the government.
Under the accord, according to Governor Talal Barazi, some 2,000 rebels will quit the city’s Waer district in several stages over the next two months.
“The calm that has prevailed since the conclusion of the agreement has had a positive result for Waer with the delivery of first aid and medical products by international organizations in cooperation with the Syrian Red Crescent,” Barazi said on Saturday.
The grassroots Local Coordination Committees activist network released video footage Saturday of dozens of supply trucks and vehicles displaying the flags of UNICEF and the Red Crescent at the entrance to Waer.
“As early as Thursday, the government began letting in food, vegetables, fruit and flour,” Barazi said.
The governor indicated that the first group of rebels would leave Waer on Tuesday.
Some 75,000 people currently live in Waer, down from 300,000 before the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.
It was the only part of the city to remain in the hands of the rebels after opposition forces evacuated the Old City in May 2014.
On Tuesday, Barazi said the first stage of the deal would see “some heavy and medium weapons turned over to authorities,” and some families of rebels would also leave.
In return, the regime will lift its siege of the district in the west of the city and end its military operations against Waer, a frequent target of government shelling.
After the evacuation is complete, regime police, but not troops, will re-enter the area, Barazi said.
The agreement was reached after a meeting Tuesday between Barazi and representatives of rebel groups present in Waer, including Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda.
Civil society groups from the district were also present, along with a UN delegation. Homs saw some of the largest protests of the early uprising, and later some of the fiercest fighting after opposition forces took up weapons in response to a government crackdown.
Regime forces control most of the Homs province, with the exception of some areas in the north.
These include the cities of Talbisseh and Rastan and also the UNESCO world heritage city of Palmyra east of Homs which has been in the hands of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group since May 21.
More than 250,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.