February 9

600 evacuated from blockaded Syrian city of Homs

Dozens of refugees were wounded by gunmen spraying bullets and lobbing mortar shells as they fled the city.

By Barbara Surk And Diaa Hadid
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Some Syrian people on two buses followed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s vehicles evacuate Syria’s battleground city of Homs, Friday.

The Associated Press

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syrian government aircraft dropped makeshift barrel bombs on a series of rebel-held districts, including one that killed more than 15 people in the neighborhood of Haydariyeh, said the activist group, the Aleppo Media Center. The bombs, crude weapons packed with explosives, fuel and metal, set nine vehicles ablaze, including some carrying civilians fleeing the area.

The bombings are part of a weekslong campaign by Assad’s forces to wrest control of Aleppo, parts of which were seized by rebels in mid-2012.

The Syrian uprising began with largely peaceful protests but gradually evolved into an increasingly sectarian civil war pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad’s government, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Syria’s many minorities have thrown their support behind Assad, fearing for their fates should hard-line rebels come to power.

On Sunday, extremist rebels killed at least two dozen Alawite gunmen defending their central village of Maan, the Syrian Observatory said. The Syrian state news agency said a “massacre” had occurred, but provided no further details. A video uploaded by rebel sympathizers showed at least one man killed, and bearded, grinning gunmen looting village homes. The Observatory said women and children had been evacuated before the gunmen entered.

Meanwhile, the Qatar-based broadcaster al-Jazeera aired what it said was new footage of a dozen Syrian nuns who have been held captive by rebels since December.

Rebels seized the nuns and at least three other women from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent when fighters overran Maaloula, a mainly Christian village north of Damascus. The group, who work in the convent’s orphanage, was taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.

An activist from the area who uses the name Amer, said rebels belonging to the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front were holding the nuns. He said Qatar officials were trying to negotiate their release and that the video was likely issued to prove to mediators that the women were in good health.

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