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The aftermath of two car bombs that exploded April 9 on a commercial street in Homs inhabited mostly by members of President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect.
U.N. envoy: Homs evacuation deal has collapsed
Thousands of civilians are believed trapped in the city, which activists say is target of barrel bombings
April 18, 201411:59AM ET
The deal that allowed some civilians to leave Syria’s besieged city of Homs has broken down, Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.–Arab League special envoy to Syria, said Friday. The same day, a car bomb killed at least nine people in a pro-government district of the city, according to activists and Syrian state television.
The explosion, which Syrian state television said killed 14 and occurred outside a mosque, underlined the bleak state of affairs in Homs, which has seen constant shelling on remaining rebel-held pockets and spurts of violence around the city despite a U.N.-led diplomatic effort to pause the fighting and improve humanitarian access to areas that have been under siege for nearly two years.
“It is a matter of deep regret that negotiations were brutally stopped and violence is now rife again when a comprehensive agreement seemed close at hand,” Brahimi said in a statement. “It is alarming that Homs, whose people have suffered so much throughout these past three years, is again the theater of death and destruction.”
The special envoy, who mediated two failed rounds of peace negotiations between the Syrian regime and representatives of a Western-backed rebel faction, called for talks to be resumed to lift the siege on Homs.
Syrian troops and pro-regime militiamen have fought their way into several rebel-held neighborhoods this week, a development that has disheartened the opposition in the city considered the capital of the rebellion. Some of the biggest anti-government demonstrations first erupted in Homs three years ago.
Brahimi's comments came after activists said Thursday that barrel bombs were being dropped by government forces on the remaining areas still under opposition control, where thousands of civilians are believed trapped with dwindling food and medical supplies.
The current bombardment, activists say, is some of the worst Homs has seen during Syria's civil war, which has killed upwards of 140,000 people and displaced 9 million others, according to U.N. estimates.
Members of the U.N. Security Council, which is holding closed-door consultations about the situation in Homs, expressed "grave concern" over the plight of civilians caught in fighting in the old quarter of the city.
Joy Ogwu, Nigeria's ambassador to the U.N., who is serving as the council's current president, said the council "urged the immediate implementation" of a February resolution to improve humanitarian access in the country.
In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power appealed to "all those U.N. member states with influence on Damascus to pressure the regime to return to the negotiating table.”
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari told reporters that only 170 civilians were trapped in Homs, alongside thousands of “terrorists” — the regime's term for rebels. He said the civilians refused to leave, “either because they are relatives of the terrorists, or because they are under pressure from those terrorists."
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan confirmed a revised list had been submitted. "For some of the stockpile, ranges of quantities had been provided. Now they are being replaced with specific amounts," he said.
Chemical cleanup delay
In a separate development Friday, Reuters reported that Damascus had turned over a "more specific" inventory of its chemical weapons stockpiles, which are currently being transported out of the country to be destroyed under a deal brokered by Russia and the U.S.
The deal staved off a threatened U.S. military strike against the regime after government forces were accused of using chemical gas against civilians in the Damascus suburbs last August, an attack that killed hundreds.
The joint U.N.-OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) mission in Syria found "discrepancies between what they found, and what was on the original declaration," one diplomat told Reuters.
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan confirmed that a revised list had been submitted. "For some of the stockpile, ranges of quantities had been provided. Now they are being replaced with specific amounts," he said.
The operation to remove Syria's chemical weapons is weeks behind schedule.