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Syria Direct: News Update 2-12-2014

* The governor of Homs announced Wednesday that the evacuation […]

12 February 2014

* The governor of Homs announced Wednesday that the evacuation of citizens from the besieged Old City had resumed. The operation was suspended Tuesday after a UN representative and the Homs’ governor failed to reach an agreement regarding the operational details of further evacuations. Since the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect last Friday, UN and SARC aid workers have evacuated over 1,150 residents from Old Homs’ 13 neighborhoods, which have been blockaded for nearly 18 months. The ceasefire was extended for 72 hours on Monday, despite the fact that unidentified attackers repeatedly targeted the aid convoy over the weekend. Meanwhile, the UN has expressed its concern over the fate of hundreds of young men and boys detained by Syrian authorities while trying to flee Old Homs.


Syrian Red Crescent workers prepare a delivery of humanitarian aid into Old Homs. Photo courtesy of the Syrian Red Crescent.

* Pro-opposition news sources reported Wednesday that the Syrian government had launched a fresh offensive on the rebel-held town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun mountain range. The Qalamoun Media Center posted a video of what it claimed was the third of at least 10 air strikes by a MiG fighter jet Wednesday morning, noting that “the plane has not left Yabroud’s skies since this morning.” Yabroud is the last major town over which rebels retain control in Qalamoun following a regime offensive in November and December of last year, as government and Hezbollah troops sought to control the highway linking Damascus with Homs.

* Regime and opposition delegations achieved little progress during face-to-face talks in Geneva on Tuesday, with the two sides failing to even agree on an agenda for the week’s talks. UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi proposed that the negotiations be based on parallel discussion of the issues of “violence and terrorism” (which Assad’s delegation insists must be the focus of the talks) and forming a transitional government, which is the opposition’s central goal. Syrian National Coalition Vice President Noura al-Amir insisted that Brahimi’s proposal was in keeping with the opposition’s agenda, stating that “forming a transitional government is the fundamental key… to fighting terrorism.” Meanwhile, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi insisted that the government delegation “will not discuss any articles of the Geneva I Communiqué… before discussing the fight against terrorism and an end to violence.”

* Moscow is preparing to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on the issue of fighting “terrorism” in Syria, reported the pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Mayadeen on Wednesday. The Russian plan comes in response to a draft resolution presented Tuesday by Austria, Luxembourg and Jordan to increase humanitarian access inside Syria. A Russian official was quoted as saying the draft “aims to pave the way for military intervention against the Syrian regime,” which Moscow’s UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin indicated his country would veto.

*Pro-opposition news site Zaman al-Wasl announced Tuesday the upcoming launch of its online sitcom entitled “The President and Women,” which will depict the relationship between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the women who surround him, including the influence of Assad’s mother on government policy and the events currently unfolding in Syria. The first episode will air on Saturday, February 15, and will be updated in weekly installments thereafter.

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