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Renewed Syria fighting breaks cease-fire in Homs

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 8, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

BEIRUT — Renewed fighting broke a cease-fire in the embattled central Syrian city of Homs and halted a plan to evacuate civilians and bring supplies into rebel-held areas under siege, an official and activists said Saturday.

The official said the fighting included a mortar that landed near U.N. personnel. An activist said combat began when government forces fired 11 rockets toward the rebel-held Hamidiyeh quarter. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

The mortar did not cause any injury to U.N. officials. The U.N. had no immediate comment.

Syrian forces loyal President Bashar Assad have prevented the entry of food and medical aid into rebel-held parts of the city for over a year, badly affecting hundreds of civilians holed up in the areas. An agreement had called for a three-day truce to allow the evacuation of some civilians and the entry of food shipments.

The agreement was reached after talks last month in Switzerland between government officials and opposition activists in exile to try to end Syria's three-year conflict. The parties are expected to meet again on Feb. 10.

On Friday, 83 children, women and elderly people on wheelchairs were evacuated from Homs, the U.N. said.

The city was one of the first areas to rise up against Assad in 2011 and has been particularly hard hit by the war. Over the past year, the government has regained control over much of Homs, except for a few neighborhoods in the historic center.

On Saturday, a coalition of exiled Syrian activists said they feared the agreement would be used as a "prelude to the regime destroying the city."

"It has used similar deals to buy time to strengthen its positions on the ground and to kill more civilians," said the Syrian Coalition in a statement issued Saturday.

Also Saturday, military aircraft dropped barrels bombs on rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 15. The bombings are part of a weekslong campaign by Assad's forces to wrest control of the city, parts of which were seized by rebels in mid-2012.

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