Ceasefire extended in Syrian city of Homs to evacuate civilians

BY Andy Swab  February 13, 2014 at 5:15 PM EST
Buses carrying Syrian civilians who were evacuated from rebel-controlled districts that were besieged by the army, arrive at a government-ruled area, in the central Syrian city of Homs, on February 12, 2014.  Photo By STR/AFP/Getty Images

Buses carrying Syrian civilians who were evacuated from rebel-controlled districts that were besieged by the army, arrive at a government-ruled area, in the central Syrian city of Homs, on February 12, 2014. Photo By STR/AFP/Getty Images

The governor of Homs announced Thursday that the humanitarian ceasefire will continue for three more days to evacuate civilians from the besieged city.

“The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians,” said Homs governor Talal al-Barazi.

The United Nations-backed agreement comes after 1,400 people, nearly half of the Old City’s population, had left the innermost part of the rebel-controlled city since last Friday. The three day extension to the ceasefire will allow more civilians to evacuate Homs, where residents have been caught in the crossfire between rebel fighters who control the Old City and Syrian Army troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad since the summer of 2012. As part of the agreement, all women and children will be allowed to evacuate, but men between 15 and 55 years old could be fighters and are not allowed to evacuate.

While Homs was called the “capital of the revolution” after rebels took arms in early 2011 to overthrow the Syrian government of President Assad, news reports say there is no electricity, food or running water in the Old Town and that only one hospital is in working order. Repeated bombing and airstrikes have trapped up to 3,000 people in the city center for almost two years.

According the BBC, civilians have had to live on boiled grass and some have eaten stray cats to survive. Aid workers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent have tried to deliver supplies, but some have been wounded during attempts to provide humanitarian relief.

However, buses evacuating citizens of Homs are expected to continue to run until Sunday, when the extended ceasefire expires.

Chronicling the rapidly deteriorating conditions of the western Syrian city over the past two years, the film “Return to Homs” premiered in the U.S. last month at the Sundance Film Festival. It documents the life of rebel fighters living amid mortar fire and gunshots on the streets.