Aid convoy hit trying to reach Syria’s besieged Homs
Violence threatens to unravel humanitarian deal reached for city last week
Civilians carry an elderly man, with a serious health condition, on a stretcher towards a meeting point to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs yesterday. Photograph: Reuters
United Nations members arrive to the besieged neighbourhoods of Homs to supply humanitarian aid today. Photograph: Thaer Al Khalidiya/The Irish Times
Syrian activists and officials said mortars were fired early today in the besieged Old Homs district in violation of a ceasefire that is intended to allow the evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid to people trapped in central neighbourhoods.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the incidents, which both sides blamed on each other. It was also not immediately clear what impact the incidents would have on the planned humanitarian operation.
The opposition Shaam News Network said the mortar fire had coincided with the entry of two UN cars, accompanied by rebel forces, into the besieged districts.
It said some of the mortar bombs targeted an area on the edge of Homs near to where negotiations over the aid operation were taking place.
It blamed president Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the barrage.
It was unclear whether the cars were turned back and it was not immediately possible to verify the reports. Authorities restrict media operations in Syria and the country’s warring parties often accuse each other of attacking civilian targets.
State news agency SANA quoted Homs governor Talal al-Barazi as saying “armed terrorist groups broke the truce this morning in the Old City of Homs, firing mortars at the police building”.
Syrian authorities describe all armed opposition against Dr Assad as terrorism.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, quoted activists in Homs as blaming Assad’s forces for the bombardment. It said five explosions shook the area at around 6.30am (Irish time).
A UN convoy with food and medical supplies was on standby on Saturday to enter the Old City and deliver its first shipment of aid to the district since mid-2012.
On Friday 83 civilians were evacuated from central Homs.
Aid workers said some of them showed signs of malnutrition after living under siege for a year and a half in one of the strongholds of the 2011 uprising against Assad, which became an armed insurgency after his forces cracked down on protests.