DAMASCUS: The Syrian Red Crescent on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) delivered a first batch of much-needed aid to civilians trapped for nearly two years in rebel-held areas of Homs city, despite coming under fire from mortars.
The long-delayed humanitarian mission was in its second day after the evacuation on Friday of 83 children, women and elderly people who have survived more than 600 days under a choking army blockade.
The evacuation and aid delivery was made possible by a surprise United Nations (UN)-brokered deal between the government and rebels to observe a three-day “humanitarian pause” in hostilities.
The truce—due to be observed on Sunday when more people are set to be evacuated—had eluded mediators in last month’s fruitless first round of peace talks between government and opposition delegations in Switzerland.
The warring sides are due return to peace talks in Geneva on Monday.
After a day of violence in the city, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said it had finally distributed food and medical aid to civilians in the Old City neighborhood.
The protracted siege has left residents starving, with people surviving on little other than olives and wild cereals, activists say.
“Although the team was shelled and fired upon we managed to deliver 250 food parcels, 190 hygiene kits and chronic diseases medicines,” the Red Crescent said on Twitter.
The aid had been held up for months in a UN warehouse in a nearby government-controlled area.
The UN says it wants to distribute emergency rations for 2,500 people, along with medical kits, bedding, cash and other support for those leaving or those choosing to stay in the Old City.