Demonstrators take part in an angry protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Halab in Syria, February 24,2012. Syrian troops shelled the rebel stronghold in Homs for the 22nd straight day, after a pause allowed relief workers to evacuate some civilians, monitors said. UPI | License Photo
DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Syrian government agreed to evacuate "innocent civilians" from the embattled city of Homs and to allow humanitarian aid into the city during a temporary truce on Friday.
The agreement was reached Thursday between the governor of Homs and the UN resident coordinator in Syria.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said, "We are very happy that finally we found the possibility to bring out these people and to provide those who are needy inside old Homs with humanitarian aid they deserve."
U.S. Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki cautioned against applauding the Syrian government for its agreement.
"An evacuation is not a substitute for the safe, regular, and unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need wherever they are. Civilians should be allowed to come and go freely, and humanitarian access should not be a political bargaining chip. ... 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."
The United Nations secretary-general's office, while welcoming the agreement "which will allow civilians to leave and the delivery of essential, life-savings supplies for about 2,500 people," also relayed a message from Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos that "we need to see unhindered, continuous and safe access for humanitarian workers to deliver aid to the millions of people trapped in all the hard to reach or besieged areas across Syria."