Syria starts evacuating civilians from besieged Homs centre

Parts of Homs Old City have been under army siege since June 2012. AFP
A convoy of United Nations buses has arrived in the besieged central Syrian city of Homs and started an initial evacuation of 200 women and children from its most heavily-bombarded districts.
The humanitarian breakthrough comes as the Syrian deputy foreign minister has said the government will take part in a second round of peace talks in Geneva.
Some 12 civilians came out on the first evacuation bus, among nearly 200 expected to be brought out during the day amid a heavy troop presence, an AFP news agency correspondent said.
State television reported that two busloads left Homs with a total of 35 people on board, mostly women, children and the elderly.
Footage broadcast on state television and other networks showed elderly and apparently frail men wrapped in blankets being helped into a bus by Red Crescent volunteers.
The convoy arrived on Friday after an uneasy ceasefire came into effect after the implementation of a truce discussed at peace talks in Switzerland last week. An expected delivery of humanitarian aid and food has been delayed until Saturday.
Speaking to Syrian state television, Homs governor Talal al-Barazi said the atmosphere was "positive" ahead of the operation which began around midday.
The besieged city remained largely quiet later on Friday, adding to hopes the truce would continue long enough for the initial evacuation to be completed, but there were reports of a shooting.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad said the government was "very happy" that the evacuations were now possible.
"This will allow innocent civilians, children and people with special needs, to leave the country," he said.
"We\’re very happy that we found the possibility to bring out these people and to provide those who are in need inside Homs, with the humanitarian aid they deserve."
The rebel-held Old Homs districts in the centre of the city have been under tight siege from President Bashar al-Assad\’s troops since June 2012. 
Source: Aljazeera and agencies
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