Fighting as aid due to enter besieged HomsAgence France-Presse . Beirut
Fighting erupted around besieged rebel-held districts of the Syrian city of Homs Saturday with the UN poised to deliver aid to desperate civilians on day two of a humanitarian truce.
The regime and activists traded accusations over responsibility for the clashes, a day after 83 children, women and elderly people who had survived more than 600 days in the war-battered enclave were evacuated.
The evacuation and planned aid delivery were made possible by a surprise UN-brokered deal between the government and rebel commanders on the ground to observe a three-day ‘humanitarian pause’ in hostilities.
Meanwhile, new aerial bombardment from explosives-packed barrel bombs in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least 20 people on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
‘The armed terrorist groups broke the truce this morning in the Old City of Homs by launching mortar rounds at the police headquarters in the Saa area,’ Homs provincial governor Talal al-Barazi said.
State news agency SANA quoted him as saying military commanders were told to exercise maximum restraint ‘to allow the evacuation of civilians’.
But activists accused regime forces of breaking the truce.
‘The besieged areas have been pounded with mortar rounds since Saturday morning,’ the Unified Media Office activist group in the besieged areas of Homs said.
‘The shelling is also targeting the road on which the humanitarian aid is supposed to be transported,’ the statement said.
It charged the firing came from pro-regime majority Alawite areas bordering districts under siege.
Desperately needed food and medicines have been held up for months in a UN warehouse in a government-controlled area just kilometres (miles) from the trapped civilians, awaiting a ceasefire.
‘Aid convoy is now being loaded and prepared to go to the Old City of Homs,’ the Red Crescent tweeted shortly before 11:00am.
UN officials said the trucks would carry emergency rations for 2,500 people, medical kits and bedding, as well as cash and other support for the ‘immediate needs both of those who choose to be evacuated from the area and of those who remain inside’.
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