Sun, Feb 26, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Red Cross makes another rescue bid in Homs, Syria

AFP and Reuters, DAMASCUS, BEIRUT and BEIJING

The Red Cross made a new attempt yesterday to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

The humanitarian effort came after Arab and Western states urged Damascus to “immediately cease all violence” to allow access, more than three weeks into a deadly assault on rebels in Syria’s third-largest city.

However, forces of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resumed their shelling of Homs’ Baba Amro district yesterday, and attacked elsewhere, killing at least 16 civilians across the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Six of them, including a woman and a girl, were gunned down when security forces clashed with army defectors at Ezaz in Aleppo Governorate, the Observatory said.

Police also opened fire to disperse a demonstration of about 4,000 people who took to the street in the neighborhood of Sayef al-Dawla in the city of Aleppo for the funeral of a civilian killed on Friday.

In Homs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was negotiating to resume evacuations from Baba Amro, it said.

“Discussions continue in Homs Saturday in order to pursue the evacuation of those in need of urgent medical care,” the ICRC’s Saleh Dabbakeh said.

However, Syrian activists deplored the outcome of an international “Friends of Syria” conference, saying that the world had abandoned them to be killed by al-Assad loyalist forces.

Activists in Homs were despondent about Friday’s “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis and suspicious of the ICRC’s efforts because they involved the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), viewed as compromised by its links with the government.

“We refuse to work with the local Red Crescent,” said Nadir al-Husseini. “The government’s demand to use the Red Crescent is a dirty trick because this group is not independent, it is under the control of the regime. We have no trust in them.”

The ICRC spokesman confirmed the Red Cross and the SARC on Friday evacuated seven Syrians wounded in shelling by regime forces as well as 20 sick women and children. They were taken to Homs’ al-Amine hospital.

However, they did not evacuate two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others, the ICRC said.

A Western diplomat confirmed the ICRC and SARC were still negotiating for the evacuation of the wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others.

Eleven ambulances and other vehicles drove into Baba Amr, but only three ambulances left with hurt Syrians, although Dabbakeh said earlier the operation would also include the Western journalists.

US reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed on Wednesday when a rocket hit a makeshift media center in Baba Amro, a rebel stronghold.

French reporter Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy suffered leg wounds in the same attack.

“My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally. I need to be operated upon as soon as possible,” Bouvier said in a video on Thursday.

Al-Assad’s government accused rebels in Baba Amro of refusing to hand over Bouvier and the bodies of the two killed journalists to rescuers.

“The concerned authorities in Homs, moved by humanitarian considerations, sent several local officials and Red Crescent ambulances to evacuate the Western journalists who entered Syria illegally,” SANA state news agency quoted an official as saying.

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