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UN evacuates civilians from Homs but Syrian fighting continues

UN evacuates civilians from Homs but Syrian fighting continues
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The shattered Syrian city of Homs has seen some relief from its government siege, with 450 people bussed out on Monday by the Red Crescent, but the humanitarian operation had a bizarre ending, with 150 men disappearing from the convoy.

The operation had been extended after the UN’s Baroness Amos reached agreement with the Syrian government, and a ceasefire to allow evacuations has held after UN workers were fired on on Saturday.

The second round of peace talks is underway in Geneva but on the battlefield the atmosphere is as tense as ever, and no end the violence appears in sight. Airstrikes on Monday hit Mleha, (east of Damascus), where 10 civilian casualties were reported.

“It is not acceptable that the regime sends its own delegation to talk peace while it is killing our people in Syria. This must stop. We ask the international community to do something about it,” said the Syrian National Coalition’s Louay Safi in Geneva.

The negotiators in Geneva are struggling with rogue units and a fragmented opposition whose various arms have different agendas. Islamic extremists were blamed for an attack on an Alawite village, Maan, in which 40 people were reported killed. Stopping incidents like this will be crucial for talks.

“I assure you that if we don’t discuss how to stop such massacres, the Syrian people will have no confidence in the process that’s going on here,” said Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad,
also in Geneva.

Talks are supposed to stop the fighting, but insisting shooting stops before talks can begin may prevent any progress. In the meantime the carnage in Aleppo and elsewhere continues.