UN pauses evacuations from Syrian city of Homs
Beirut: The United Nations temporarily suspended the evacuation of civilians from the embattled Syrian city of Homs on Friday, a senior UN official said, while the government screened military age males who left the area.
Meanwhile near Lebanon, Syrian forces and rebels clashed over the strategic town of Yabroud, causing hundreds of people to flee over the border.
The halt in evacuations came just a day after a cease-fire was extended for three more days. Hundreds more civilians are believed to still be trapped in a rebel-held medieval quarter known as Old Homs.
Senior Syria UN official Matthew Hollingworth told The Associated Press by telephone from Damascus that dozens of men and boys aged 15 to 55, who left Old Homs during earlier evacuations, are still being held and questioned by Syrian authorities.
"The agreement has been we will now concentrate on the process of completing the regularisation of status of the men from 15 to 55," Hollingworth said. "Only when that`s done, will we look at another evacuation." Later in the day however he said the U.N was not linking the next evacuation to the release of the men being processed by Syrian authorities.
The Syrian government considers males of military age to be potential combatants who must obtain security clearance before being released. Those authorities suspect of being rebels will likely be detained.
Hollingworth said several dozen men were being held in a school in Homs and that UN officials are also present there.
They were part of 1,400 people evacuated by the UN. And the Syrian Red Crescent from opposition-held areas of Homs over the past week as a fragile truce between took hold between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and armed rebels seeking his overthrow.