UN Rescue Operation Shot At in Homs
Accusations fly over attack as new ceasefire negotiated
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2014 8:15 AM CST
Some Syrian people on two buses followed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent's vehicles evacuate Syria's battleground city of Homs, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – A UN convoy seeking to bring aid to, and evacuate civilians from the rebel-held "Old City" section of Homs came under mortar and sniper fire yesterday, in violation of a negotiated ceasefire. At least four civilians awaiting evacuation were killed in the attack, but the convoy ultimately managed to get 611 people out, while sustaining no UN casualties. Accusations flew afterward. The UN didn't officially blame anyone, but some UN employees tell the Wall Street Journal that regime loyalists were responsible. Many Alawites, the sect to which Bashar al-Assad belongs, had opposed the convoy, arguing that it would help the rebels escape.

The regime blames the rebels, saying they didn't want civilians to leave—though the UN says there's no evidence backing regime claims that the rebels are using human shields. Once the convoy was out, a dispute broke out because 130 fighting-age men were among the evacuees. The government seized the men for interrogations—the original deal allowing the convoy had stipulated that men aged 16 to 54 would face a "judicial process" if they left, the LA Times reports. The government tells the BBC that 103 "militants" were detained, and then released.