Syria accuses ‘terrorists’ of preventing evacuation of Homs residents
DAMASCUS - Syria on Tuesday accused gunmen of using Homs residents as "human shields" and of blocking government's efforts to evacuate them from the besieged central city.
"Contacts have been made with the head of the UN observers and local authorities in order to facilitate the departure of innocent citizens (besieged) in Homs," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"But the UN mission failed in achieving this goal this goal because of the armed terrorist groups blocked its efforts," it added, according to the official SANA news agency.
"The Syrian government is ready to evacuate its citizens, besieged by the armed terrorist groups," the ministry said, adding that efforts to transfer Homs residents to safe areas have been underway for a week.
It also urged "all those who can to press the armed groups not to target innocent civilians" accusing the gunmen of using the civilians as "human shields."
Syrian authorities blame "armed terrorist groups" for the violence in the country where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 14,400 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted last year.
On the weekend the opposition Syrian National Council warned of a looming massacre in Homs city, which it said is besieged by 30,000 troops and pro-regime militiamen.
The Britain-based Observatory said 1,000 families were stuck there and has reported daily government shelling of rebel bastions inside the city and on its outskirts.
Activists and the opposition have spoken of difficult conditions in Homs, where food supplies were running low amid water and electricity outages.
The head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, urged warring parties on Sunday to "allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions and ensure their safety."
Mood also announced the suspension of the mission's activities in Syria due to the deadly violence.