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Published: Saturday February 8, 2014 MYT 7:02:13 PM
Updated: Saturday February 8, 2014 MYT 7:03:19 PM

Mortar fire in Homs ahead of planned U.N. aid mission

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian activists and officials said mortars were fired early on Saturday in the besieged Old Homs despite a ceasefire intended to allow the evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid to people trapped in the city's central neighbourhoods.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the incident, which both sides blamed on each other, and it was not immediately clear whether it would affect the planned humanitarian operations.

State news agency SANA quoted Homs governor Talal al-Barazi as saying "armed terrorist groups broke the truce this morning in the Old City of Homs, firing mortars at the police building".

Syrian authorities describe all armed opposition against President Bashar al-Assad as terrorism.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, quoted activists in Homs as blaming Assad's forces for the bombardment. It said five explosions shook the area at around 8.30 am (0630 GMT).

A United Nations convoy with food and medical supplies was on standby on Saturday to enter the Old City and deliver its first shipment of aid to the district since mid-2012.

On Friday 83 civilians were evacuated from central Homs. Aid workers said some of them showed signs of malnutrition after living under siege for a year and a half in one of the strongholds of the 2011 uprising against Assad, which became an armed insurgency after his forces cracked down on protests.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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