Aid Delivered to Displaced Syrians Near Baba Amr

Posted March 4th, 2012 at 9:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The International Committee of the Red Cross says aid workers in Syria have begun delivering relief supplies to a village sheltering refugees from a month-long government assault on the Homs district of Baba Amr.

ICRC officials said Sunday that Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams distributed aid to the Baba Amr refugees in the village of Abel, three kilometers from Homs city. They said the relief operation would be extended to the Homs district of Inshaat later in the day.

But, the ICRC officials said Syrian troops continued to block aid workers from Baba Amr itself for security reasons. An aid convoy has been waiting to enter the district to help freezing, hungry and wounded civilians since Friday, when the Syrian government authorized the relief operation. Syrian rebels taking part in a year-long uprising against autocratic President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from Baba Amr a day earlier.

ICRC officials said negotiations with Syrian authorities to let the aid convoy into Baba Amr were continuing.

In other developments on Sunday, rights activists said pro-Assad troops shelled the rebel-held town of Rastan, north of Homs. A Reuters news agency reporter also witnessed Syrians fleeing a government artillery assault on the town of Qusair, south of Homs. Reuters quotes a U.N. refugee agency official as saying up to 2,000 Syrians were crossing into nearby Lebanon to escape the shelling of Qusair.

China called on the Syrian government and opponents to agree on an “immediate” cease-fire and begin a dialogue to resolve the unrest. But, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated Beijing's opposition to Western and Arab-led demands for aid workers to have unfettered access to Syria. China said “humanitarian issues” should not be used as a “pretext” for “foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs.”

China and Russia have vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have condemned the Assad government for its deadly crackdown on the opposition revolt. Both nations have said the council must not take sides in a domestic conflict.

Meanwhile, the bodies of two Western journalists killed in Homs last month were transported by plane from Damascus to Paris on Sunday. American Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and freelance French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in a government artillery strike on a makeshift media center in Baba Amr on February 22. Syrian authorities retrieved their bodies last week and handed them to diplomats in Damascus.

The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed in violence related to the Syrian uprising since it began last March. Syrian officials blame the revolt on foreign-backed armed “terrorists” whom the government says have killed more than 2,000 security personnel. Syrian state news agency SANA said 16 security personnel were buried Sunday after being killed in fighting with rebel groups.