Families trapped in Homs are a small fraction of the quarter of a
million Syrians who are living under siege in the country, according
to the world body's estimates.
But Homs, much of it reduced to rubble by relentless shelling and
fighting, has been a focal point of negotiations between the
government and the opposition at peace talks in Switzerland.
Opposition activists living in the Old City of Homs posted a letter
on social media on Tuesday saying that unless the siege was fully
broken, all other measures will be "superficial".
"We assure you and the world that the demands of the besieged are
not limited to humanitarian aid," it said, adding that there are
dozens of medical cases that require surgery.
It called for "secure safe corridors to enter and exit (Homs) for
those who want to, without their having to go through regime
checkpoints that surround the besieged area."
The U.N. hub in Homs is preparing an inter-agency aid convoy
carrying food and supplies for the besieged population in the
rebel-held city, which has been out of reach for nearly a year, WFP
spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told Reuters in response to a query.
"Once all parties on the ground allow the inter-agency convoy to
proceed, WFP will deliver to the Old City 500 family rations and 500
bags of wheat flour, enough for 2,500 people for one month," she
The WFP also planned to send 100 boxes of "Plumpy'Doz", a
specialized nutrition product that helps to treat children suffering
from stunted growth and acute malnutrition, she said.
The agency would also provide ready-to-eat food rations to "women
and children who choose to be evacuated" from the Old City if access
is granted, Byrs added.
[to top of second column]
SECURITY COUNCIL PARALYZED
Syrian deputy foreign minister Faysal Mekdad said on Sunday that
some 2,500 people were in the Old City of Homs and that government
forces were willing to let women and children leave.
International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said on Monday the Syrian
government and opposition parties were still discussing how women
and children could leave the Old City, but there had been no
decision on allowing access for a convoy due to snipers and other
At peace talks in Geneva, the Syrian government has asked the
opposition for all the names of men inside the Old City of Homs, he
said. Rebel fighters are also hiding in Homs.
"It is not a precondition to allowing the women and children out, it
is a pre-condition to allowing men, civilian men out," Brahimi said.
A binding Security Council resolution could formally oblige the
authorities to let aid agencies into besieged areas. But divisions
between Western powers, backing the rebels, and Russia, have
paralyzed the world body over Syria since the conflict began in
The government has encircled hundreds of thousands of people across
the country, blocking off food and medicine. Anti-Assad rebels have
also besieged 45,000 people in two towns in the north.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Oliver Holmes in
Beirut; editing by Mike Collett-White)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.