People flee the violence with their belongings in Masaken Hanano in Aleppo February 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Hosam Katan)
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The United Nations on Thursday welcomed reports that an agreement had been reached to allow the evacuation of civilians from the besieged Syrian city of Homs and for aid to be delivered, a U.N. spokesman said.The United Nations made clear that it was not a party to the deal and while it was ready to send in aid, it did not yet have the go-ahead from the government and opposition sides in Syria's war to move on the reported agreement.Syria earlier said it reached a deal to allow "innocent" civilians to leave the rebel-held old city of Homs, potentially the first positive result after deadlocked peace talks in Switzerland last week.The government's announcement came hours after rebels declared a new offensive in the northern province of Aleppo, in response to an escalated air assault by government forces trying to recapture territory and drive residents out of opposition-held areas.President Bashar al-Assad's forces have used siege tactics to surround and try to starve out rebels holding strategic areas, a technique increasingly copied by rebels as well. Forces loyal to Assad have been making small gains on rebel-held parts of Syria's second city, advances which many opposition sources blame on weeks of rebel infighting that has killed more than 2,300 combatants.
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