Hundreds of Syrians leave Homs amid evacuation efforts
DAMASCUS - A total of 420 people were evacuated Sunday from army-besieged districts of the Syrian city of Homs, the province's governor said, as television footage showed exhausted men, women and children.
"Four hundred and twenty besieged people came out today from the Old City districts of Homs, and the operation is still under way," Barazi said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that "more than 500 civilians" were evacuated Sunday, in compliance with a UN-brokered deal over the besieged districts, where some 3,000 people had been trapped.
Television footage showed women, children and elderly men getting off the buses that brought them out of the besieged areas, after suffering a more than 600-day siege.
They appeared visibly exhausted and frail-looking, in video broadcast by Beirut-based channel Al-Mayadeen. Children, carried by their parents, looked pale.
The civilians were assisted by UN staff wearing helmets and blue vests, and Syrian Red Crescent volunteers. There was also a strong Syrian army presence at the evacuation site.
"We had nothing. All the children were sick, we even had nothing to drink," said one exhausted woman, her three children standing around her.
A UN staffer gave her a bottle of water.
"It's been two years and four months!" a man told a journalist who asked him how long it had been since he had left the rebel-held districts.
A handful of neighbourhoods in central Homs have been under choking army siege since June 2012, but even before then they had been under frequent fire and suffered from shortages.