Syrian Forces Shell Homs, Block Aid to Rebel Stronghold

Posted March 3rd, 2012 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian troops shelled several districts in the flashpoint city of Homs Saturday where authorities are still preventing Red Cross workers from delivering humanitarian aid to those stranded in the Baba Amr district.

Activists and medical workers say forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad fired mortars on at least four neighborhoods across Homs Saturday, including Baba Amr where rebels and citizens have been under siege by government forces for nearly a month.

The Red Cross says Syrian authorities are continuing to block its convoy of seven trucks carrying medical supplies and food to Baba Amr, where activists say the humanitarian situation is dire. The Red Cross says the government initially gave it permission, on Thursday, to enter the area after Syrian forces took control and rebel forces fled the district.

Human Rights Watch says about 700 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded since the assault on Homs last month. In a report released late Friday, the New York-based human rights organization said witnesses told HRW that shelling starts everyday around 6:30am, continues until sunset and sporadically throughout the night. One journalist told the group that she counted 200 explosions in two hours one day in early February.

In Damascus, the bodies of two Western journalists killed in a shelling attack on Baba Amr last week have been handed over to diplomats. A Polish diplomat, representing U.S. interests in Syria, received the body of American-born journalist Marie Colvin, and the French ambassador to Syria received the remains of French photographer Remi Ochlik. It is unclear when the bodies will be flown out of the country.

In other violence, activists and the state-run SANA news agency say an explosion killed at least three people in the southern city of Daraa Saturday. Several others were also wounded in the blast. SANA is blaming a suicide car bomber for the attack.