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Amid gunfire, some critical aid gets in to Homs, Syria

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 10:30 PM EST, Sat February 8, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.N. humanitarian chief says aid workers were "deliberately targeted"
  • Workers were trying to deliver humanitarian aid, but only a portion of it got through
  • Government blames "terrorists" for wounding 4 aid workers
  • But the Red Crescent says only one, a driver, suffered a minor injury

(CNN) -- An aid convoy that came under fire in a besieged neighborhood in Homs has left the area after delivering only a portion of the aid it was carrying, the Syrian Red Crescent said Saturday.

"Although the team was shelled and fired upon we managed to deliver 250 food parcels,190 hygiene kits and chronic diseases medicines," the organization said in a tweet.

The team said that one driver suffered a minor injury when explosions and gunfire hit near the convoy in Homs.

The convoy left, except for two trucks that were damaged and had to be left behind, the organization said.

Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief, lamented that the "three-day humanitarian pause agreed (upon) was broken today and aid workers (were) deliberately targeted."

"Today's events serve as a stark reminder of the dangers that civilians and aid workers face every day across Syria," said Amos, who applauded "the courage and tenacity" of U.N. and Red Crescent aid workers.

Video from the scene posted by activists showed bullet holes in the aid vehicles, and damage to buildings from explosions.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency had reported that four Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers were wounded Saturday by gunfire from "terrorist groups" while they were trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Old City of Homs.

Homs' Governor Talal al-Barazi said that "armed terrorist groups" had violated a truce in the Old City by firing mortar shells on the police command building in the Old Sa'a area. But in a statement to SANA, Barazi said the government would keep its promise to help get civilians out of the Old City of Homs

The government refers to rebels in the civil war that has fractured the country as "terrorists."

The U.N.-led operation to help civilians wishing to leave the Old City of Homs started Friday with the evacuation of 83 women, children and elderly civilians after an agreement between the government and opposition groups for a cease-fire that was also intended to allow for humanitarian aid to reach the city on Saturday.

As many as 2,500 people are thought to be trapped in Homs, parts of which have been under siege since June 2012.

The first group of civilians was allowed to leave the city, SANA reported Friday.

A video posted Saturday to YouTube showed more than a dozen civilians carrying bundles as they walked between four U.N. vehicles -- two on each side -- in an apparent attempt to avoid being shot. It was not clear whether they reached their destination.

The killing flared anew Saturday across the nation, with at least 83 people killed, 10 of them children and six women, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported. Five of the deaths occurred in Homs, it said.

Nearly half of the deaths -- 41 -- occurred in Aleppo, where video shot by an opposition activist and posted to YouTube showed the graphic aftermath of what the poster said was a barrel-bomb attack carried out by government helicopters: buildings with their faces blown off, bodies with their limbs blown off and cars ablaze.

Barrel bombs are drums packed with explosives and shrapnel.

"Each and every barrel bomb filled with metal shrapnel and fuel launched against innocent Syrians underscores the barbarity of a regime that has turned its country into a super magnet for terror," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said this week in a statement after another reported barrel-bomb attack on the northern city, which has become a flashpoint in the war.

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