Skip to main content

Syria: Fight for Aleppo prison; humanitarian deal in Homs

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 5:17 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Women, children, elderly to get a chance to leave Homs, with aid to arrive
  • It is unclear whether rebels have full or partial control of a prison in Aleppo
  • Around 3,000 people have been detained at the prison, many of them women
  • The Syrian conflict is nearly 3 years old

(CNN) -- Syria's nearly 3-year-old civil war saw more bloodshed Thursday, and perhaps a moment of peace.

Fighting at a huge prison in the volatile city of Aleppo brought conflicting rebel claims on whether they controlled all or part of the facility.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and the United States confirmed an agreement announced by rebels and the government of a planned cease-fire in the besieged Old City of Homs that would allow some people to flee and humanitarian aid to arrive for the first time in over a year.

"We welcome the news that a deal has been reached," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of what she called "a local humanitarian pause" to begin Friday.

An opposition spokesman in Homs, Abu Rami, said the agreement called for a cease-fire at a time to be set by the government and expected imminently.

Once the fighting halts, women, civilians over 55 and children under 15 can choose to leave the Old City if they agree not to take up arms against the government, he said.

Kerry: Syria's al-Assad not winning
Malnourished children dying in Syria
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos

After the first group of evacuations, Syrian troops would clear the way for a U.N. aid convoy packed with food and medicine to enter the area for the first time in more than a year, according to Abu Rami.

"We have nothing to give the families," he told CNN via Skype from the Old City of Homs. "We are crippled because of the lack of food and medicine, which especially affects the women, children, and the elderly, so for the sake of the public good, we must agree to this cease-fire."

According to SANA, the official Syrian news agency, the government would provide shelter, food and medical treatment to people who leave the Old City. In addition, the agreement calls for government forces to allow humanitarian assistance to people who remain in the besieged area, SANA reported.

Valerie Amos, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said the cease-fire agreement would mean essential supplies for about 2,500 people in Homs.

"What we're waiting for is a green light to be given by the parties for safe passage," said Farhan Haq, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In Washington, Psaki called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to follow through on allowing U.N. convoys to enter Homs, adding that "an evacuation is not a substitute for the safe, regular, and unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need wherever they are."

"We should not be giving credit to a regime just for providing food for a few days to people who are starving, given that's the right moral thing to do, and this is something they should have been doing all along," Psaki said.

Asked about concerns that the Syrian regime might be preparing for a final assault on those who remain in Homs once the other civilians depart, Psaki refused to speculate but said it was important for the U.N. convoys to get access to the Old City.

In Aleppo, Islamist brigade Ahrar al-Sham and al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front took control of the sprawling six-story Aleppo Central Prison from government forces after announcing an offensive to free detainees, opposition groups the Aleppo Media Center and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.

However, an activist from the rebel Shahba Press Agency group, Nazeer al-Khatib, later told CNN only a part of the prison was under rebel control. He cited miscommunication for backtracking on the initial claims.

"Information came from the Ahrar al-Sham media office regarding the full takeover of the prison and media activists hurried the transmission of information," al-Khatib told CNN via Skype from the city.

The media center and the observatory could not be immediately reached for comment.

Aleppo is a major battle front in the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions since erupting in 2011.

The prison has an estimated 3,000 detainees, many of them prisoners of conscience. At least 800 women were among the prisoners, al-Khatib told CNN.

Clashes between government forces and rebels started early Thursday after rebels detonated a car bomb in front of a building in the prison complex housing Syrian army troops, the Aleppo Media Center said.

Government warplanes dropped barrel bombs on the perimeter of the prison and tanks fired shells to reverse the advance of insurgents, causing dozens of casualties, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

CNN's Joe Sterling and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT