Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has reportedly agreed to a ceasefire in the beleaguered city of Homs, allowing civilians out and humanitarian aid into the urban warzone. The promise follows unfulfilled talk to that effect from Sunday.
"We welcome the reports that the parties have agreed a humanitarian pause to allow civilians out of and aid into old Homs city," remarked UN spokesman Farhan Haq in New York on Thursday.
On Sunday, in the Geneva 2 Syrian peace talks, the regime agreed to allow women and children to leave Homs. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said the evacuation would come "hopefully starting tomorrow...but the government needs a list of their names first."
The promised evacuation has yet to occur; Al Jazeera reports the ceasefire and evacuation is set to start Friday morning.
Haq added "the United Nations and humanitarian partners had pre-positioned food, medical and other basic supplies on the outskirts of Homs ready for immediate delivery as soon as the green light was given by the parties for its passage. Aid staff were also on standby."
The UN supplies are part of its massive humanitarian aid efforts for Syria, and particularly target Homs that has been the focal point of intense fighting; last summer Assad's army took back key parts of the city from rebel control, which was followed by a large-scale rebel attack on a weapons depot.
The Syrian war, now in its third year, has been accompanied by atrocities from both sides. Rebels have used child soldiers as young as 4-years-old, Assad's forces have reportedly been razing whole neighborhoods in Damascus and Hama, and have been given religious permission to rape women in revenge on the rebels.