Red Cross Denied Access to Homs as Killing Continues

March 2, 2012  

The Red Cross said on Friday that Syria had blocked an aid convoy from entering the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr, amid reports of brutal reprisals there by government forces, AFP reported.

International Committee of the Red Cross president Jakob Kellenberger was quoted as having said it was “unacceptable” that the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society were not allowed to enter Baba Amr, more than a day after getting permission to do so.

“It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,” Kellenberger said in a statement in Geneva.

More than 20,000 civilians are believed to have been trapped in Baba Amr in the wake of a month-long bombardment by regime forces.

AFP cited volunteers who said the Syrian army had prevented a convoy of seven trucks carrying food, medicines, blankets, baby milk and other supplies from going in.

One volunteer told the French news agency they had been told this was because the army needed to “clear the sector of land mines and explosives left behind by rebels when they fled” on Thursday.

Most of the rebels in the Baba Amr section reportedly retreated Homs on Thursday after withstanding three weeks of government shelling. Opposition members called the retreat “tactical” and noted that a few combatants remained inside Baba Amr in order to provide for cover for their retreating colleagues.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that ten people were shot dead in Baba Amr on Friday. Another 12 people, including five children, were reported killed as a shell crashed into a crowd of demonstrators in Rastan, near Homs. 15 further deaths were reported elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, two French journalists who were evacuated from Homs arrived Friday at a military airport near Paris, where they were to be met by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, AFP reported.

A plane transporting wounded reporter Edith Bouvier and photographer William Daniels arrived in Paris from Beirut after they were smuggled out of Homs.

The ICRC spokesman in Damascus, Saleh Dabbakeh, said the remains of two Western journalists killed in the February 22 rocket attack that wounded Bouvier and Williams, were being taken from Homs to the capital on Friday,

According to Dabbakeh, “Ambulances are currently transporting the bodies of (American reporter) Marie Colvin and (French photographer) Remi Ochlik towards Damascus.”

The statements contradicted the claims by Syrian activists, who on Thursday claimed to have buried Colvin in Homs. The activists uploaded a video to YouTube, in which they claim to be documenting Colvin’s funeral.

The video clip showed a man, whose identity is unknown but who previously appeared in several films from the neighborhood, saying that he is at a cemetery in the neighborhood of Baba Amr, where Colvin was killed.

The man added that opposition activists decided to bury Colvin in Homs because there was no electricity to cool the body and it began to decay.

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