Syrian civilians wait at a meeting point before being evacuated during a UN-led humanitarian operation in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on February 12, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/BASSEL TAWIL)
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Weeping children begged for food and women picked grass to eat as hunger gripped rebel-held neighborhoods of the Syrian city of Homs during a nearly two-year military blockade, according to a rare first-hand account by a man evacuated during a truce this week.It was ultimately that hunger that caused Abu Jalal Tilawi to flee, along with around 1,300 others, mostly women, children and elderly allowed out during the truce. Tilawi's account in a Skype interview spotlights the suffering experienced by an estimated 250,000 civilians living in over 40 areas across Syria that have been blockaded for months.The continuing siege of rebel-held districts in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, is perhaps the longest.But the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadamieh has been under blockade for 15 months. A government siege of Yarmouk, an area on Damascus' southern fringes that is home to some 18,000 people, has been in place for about a year, and activists estimate more than 100 people there have died of hunger-related illnesses and a lack of medical aid. Before the evacuation, an estimated 2,500 civilians were trapped in Old Homs.A Syrian reporter in Homs said evacuees described scrounging for food sources during the months of siege.Tilawi, the evacuee, spoke to AP from the home of one his sons in Waar, a rebel-held area across the Orontes River from Homs where many of the evacuees went.Tilawi was trapped in Old Homs with three of his five sons.
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