Some aid reaches Syria's Homs, refugees flee to border

Sun Mar 4, 2012 12:50pm EST
 

By Oliver Holmes and Mohammed Abbas

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Red Cross delivered emergency aid to areas around the battered Baba Amro district of the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, but was blocked for a third day from entering the former rebel bastion amid reports of bloody reprisals by state forces.

Activists reported shelling and other violence across Syria, sending one of the biggest surges of refugees across the border into Lebanon in a single day since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began a year ago.

Concerns mounted for civilians left stranded in Baba Amro in freezing weather with little food, fuel or medicine. Rebels abandoned their positions there on Thursday after facing almost a month of near-constant shelling by Syrian forces intent on crushing the uprising.

Activists said the government was trying to prevent the Red Cross from witnessing "massacres" by Syrian soldiers hunting down and killing remaining rebels.

"In all the years that I have known the ICRC in Damascus, the Syrian government has never let them see torture victims or the underbelly of the government," said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at Oklahoma University. "I don't know why they would change now."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he had received "grisly reports" that troops were executing and torturing people in Homs after insurgents abandoned their positions.

"It's over for tonight. We will try again tomorrow," said Saleh Dabbakeh, the Damascus-based spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), referring to efforts to get into Baba Amro. He declined to say why Syrian forces had blocked their entry.

The ICRC said workers had instead delivered supplies to areas nearby where many people had taken refuge.   Continued...

 
A girl whose father was killed during the recent shelling on the Bab Amro district holds a placard at a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad  in Al Qusour, Homs March 3, 2012. The placard reads, "The hypocritical international community wants to send aid to Bab Amro. Where were you oh traitors, when the barrage of shells did not stop for 27 days?"  REUTERS/Handout