Truce agreed for Homs evacuation

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iol news pic Mideast Syria~2 HOMS AP This image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed Wednesday, June 20, 2012, purports to show smoke rising from buildings in Homs province, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

Geneva - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday it was preparing to evacuate trapped civilians and the wounded from the flashpoint Syrian city of Homs after both sides agreed to its request for a temporary truce.

The independent aid agency said it had made its request on Tuesday to Syrian authorities and various opposition groups after about 10 days of fighting in several Homs neighbourhoods.

“We have teams from the ICRC and Syrian Red Crescent in Homs city. We want to go in as soon as possible. We are finalising technical issues and contacts on the ground,” ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva.

Homs has been at the centre of the 15-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Syria said on Tuesday it was trying to evacuate civilians from Homs and blamed rebel fighters for obstructing efforts to get people out safely.

“Hundreds of civilians are stuck in the old city of Homs, unable to leave and find refuge in safer areas, because of the ongoing armed confrontations,” said Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East.

“It is critical that the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent be immediately given safe and unhindered access to those in need of life-saving assistance,” she said in a statement.

iol news pic houla shelter Boys smile as they walk near people seeking refuge at a temporary shelter at Houla near Homs June 19, 2012. The number of Syrians needing humanitarian aid has soared 50 percent since March to 1.5 million amid escalating violence. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout REUTERS

The top priority was to evacuate wounded and sick people to safer areas for medical treatment, in line with international humanitarian law, the ICRC said. The agency was also seeking to bring “much-needed aid” and medical supplies to the local branch of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Homs. - Reuters

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