DAMASCUS, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The governor of Syria's central Homs province said Wednesday that authorities are prepared to evacuate trapped civilians in Homs' old quarters held by rebels, denying aid convoys are to enter the area.
Speaking to Xinhua, Talal Barazi said the authorities were waiting for a response from the rebel groups inside the besieged area through a UN resident coordinator Yacoub al Helou, who was shuttling between the two sides to secure the evacuation.
Media reports said that the UN has aid convoys waiting to deliver humanitarian rations to the besieged people inside the old city of Homs.
UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, mediating at the ongoing Geneva II peace conference, also said: "The convoy is ... waiting to enter. The authorization has not yet been given. We haven't given up on that."
However, Barazi denied the presence of any aid convoy bound for old homs. "The news about the presence of aid convoys is totally untrue and we have no knowledge about this subject."
He said that after the evacuation of the first batch of civilians, he would hold a meeting with UN officials to assess the situation inside the area. "We will determine the kind and quantity of humanitarian aid that could be delivered specifically to the civilians that prefer to stay inside."
The governor stressed that the government would by no means accept to deliver aid that ends up in the hands of rebels, noting that they could take advantage of a recent pardon and surrender themselves.
We distinguish between civilians and armed men, the governor told Xinhua. "We will not give supplies to armed men ... after the Syrian forces succeeded in ... trapping them inside."
The governor noted the armed rebels haven't yet responded to the evacuation plan, saying: "Apparently they want to keep the civilians inside to use them as human shields."
Activists said about 3,000 civilians and 4,000 rebels are trapped in the old quarters of Homs which the Syrian troops have besieged for 20-months.