BEIRUT

Dozens evacuated from besieged Syrian city of Homs

Dozens of Syrian civilians trapped in the old quarter of the besieged city of Homs were evacuated Friday by United Nations aid workers who had access to the area for the first time in almost 18 months.

Syrian state television showed a series of buses entering the Old City of Homs — which has been reduced to rubble in heavy fighting between government soldiers and rebels that began in late 2011 — to evacuate about 70 residents, many of whom appeared to be elderly and emaciated.

The evacuation was the first phase of a U.N.-brokered deal that’s scheduled to see food distributed in the district Saturday.

Under the terms of the deal, all men ages 15 to 55 in the district were to register with the government, lay down their weapons and become “normalized,” a term that wasn’t further defined. Those conditions worried some human rights activists, who expressed concern the men would be imprisoned or otherwise punished if they registered.

But as the afternoon progressed, it became clear that few fighting-age men remained in the old city.

TORONTO

Mayor wants to remove rainbow flag at City Hall

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants to remove a rainbow flag at City Hall that protests Russia’s law restricting gay-rights activities, and he hoisted a Canadian flag in his office window in response on Friday.

Some city halls across Canada raised the rainbow flag as the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia.

– From news service reports