Red Cross hopes to enter Homs as Syria boils
Beirut, March 4, 2012
The Red Cross hoped to deliver vital aid to the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday but troops were still stopping it getting through despite government permission
'We have the green light, we hope to enter, we hope today is the day,' said the International Committee of the Red Cross's Damascus-based spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh, declining to give further details about what he said were sensitive talks with Syrian officials.
'We are very concerned about the people in Baba Amro,' he said, referring to the isolated Homs neighbourhood.
After a month of bombardment by President Bashar Al-Assad's forces, concerns mounted for freezing, hungry and wounded civilians in Homs. Opposition activists said aid workers were being kept out so they do not see Syrian army 'massacres'.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said he had received 'grisly reports' troops were executing and torturing people in Homs after insurgents abandoned their positions.
South of Homs, the border town of Qusair came under shelling by government forces that forced residents to flee on foot to neighbouring Lebanon, a Reuters witness said.
'The people said they were sat at home and suddenly the shelling started and they fled. They said it was tank shelling and gunfire,' said Reuters reporter Afif Diab.
He spoke at the border to what he said were mainly women fleeing with their children. Blasts could be heard from the Lebanese border, which is some 12 km from Qusair.
Activists also reported heavy shelling in the town of Rastan, north of Homs, where rebels have been hiding. 'Residents told me that shelling started early this morning shortly after helicopters and spotter planes were seen above the town,' said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Clashes between Free Syrian Army defectors and Syrian troops were also reported in Jebel al-Zawiya in Syria's north.
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests against Assad's rule sparked an insurrection by army deserters and others.
The government says it is fighting foreign-backed 'terrorists' it blames for killing hundreds of soldiers and police across the country. The UN says Syrian security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against the Assad family's four decade rule began in March last year. - Reuters