Thursday 25 December 2014

Aid efforts stop as mortars shatter ceasefire in Syrian city of Homs

Associated Press

Published 09/02/2014 | 02:30

Syrians gather with their belongings in a street in Homs as a UN and Syria's Red Crescent humanitarian convoy delivers food and medical aid
Syrians gather with their belongings in a street in Homs as a UN and Syria's Red Crescent humanitarian convoy delivers food and medical aid

A CEASEFIRE in the Syrian city of Homs was shattered by mortar fire yesterday, halting a long-awaited operation designed to move out civilians and deliver essential aid.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have blockaded the historic centre of Homs for more than a year, denying food and other basic supplies to its people.

But a three-day ceasefire was agreed at the peace conference in Geneva last month, supposedly allowing women and children to escape from central Homs and food to enter for the first time since the siege began.

These efforts came to an abrupt halt when a mortar bomb exploded near United Nations personnel on the second day of the ceasefire yesterday. The regime and the rebels blamed one another for breaking the truce.

Further north in the city of Aleppo, the regime pressed on with an offensive involving the bombardment of rebel-held areas with "barrel bombs". A helicopter dropped more of these weapons, killing at least 15 people, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a London-based group.

MAN TRIES TO HIJACK FLIGHT TO OLYMPICS

A UKRAINIAN man who allegedly tried to hijack a Turkey-bound commercial flight and divert it to Sochi on the day of the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony wanted to press for the release of anti-government protesters in his country, authorities have said.

The 45-year-old Ukrainian man, identified by Turkish media as Artem Hozlov, claimed he had a bomb and tried to divert a Pegasus Airlines flight, which originated in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Sochi, Russia on Friday. The crew tricked him and landed the plane in Istanbul instead, where he was subdued by security officers who sneaked on board. Turkish authorities said no bomb was found.

TWO DIE AS BOULDER SMASHES INTO TRAIN

TWO people are dead after an enormous boulder smashed into a tourist train, derailing it outside the French town of Annot. The so-called 'Train of the Pines' runs from the southern French city of Nice to Digne-les-Bain.

Mayor Jean Ballester said about 30 people were on board when it derailed. The train was still dangling dramatically from the tracks three hours after the accident. The side of one carriage caved in from the force of the boulder.

CYPRIOT AND TURKISH TALKS TO RESUME

THE leaders of Cyprus's estranged Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities will meet on Tuesday, the United Nations said yesterday, in a move heralding the relaunch of long-stalled peace talks.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu were to meet in a United Nations compound straddling the island's divided capital, Nicosia.

SHIPWRECKED MAN TOO WEAK TO TRAVEL

THE Salvadoran man who says he spent more than a year drifting across the Pacific Ocean before making landfall in the Marshall Islands is too weak to travel and will remain in the island nation for a while, an official said.

Diego Dalton, an official with El Salvador's embassy in Tokyo, said Jose Salvador Alvarenga's health was "very frail" and that he would not return home until he was able to make the journey. Mr Alvarenga, 37, washed ashore late last month. He was taken last week to the Marshall Islands' capital, Majuro, where he has been resting at a hotel.

BOY, 13, HELD AS ASYLUM FIRE KILLS THREE

GERMAN police said a 13-year-old boy was arrested for setting fire to an asylum home in Hamburg that killed a woman from Pakistan and her two children.

Police spokesman Andreas Schoepflin said the boy, who is a member of the city's youth fire department, was identified based on witness accounts and video footage. He admitted to the crime when confronted by police and was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

UK MINISTER QUITS OVER ILLEGAL CLEANER

British immigration minister Mark Harper has resigned after discovering that a cleaner he employed was not legally allowed to work in the country, Prime Minister David Cameron's office has said.

The issue will be an embarrassment for Cameron's Tory-led government, which has pledged to bring down the number of immigrants to below 100,000 a year by 2015.

Mr Cameron accepted the resignation with regret, his office said. "There is no suggestion that Mr Harper knowingly employed an illegal immigrant," the statement read. Mr Harper will stay on as a member of parliament.

Irish Independent

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