Red Cross Appeals Syrian Authorities to Enter Rebel Stronghold

Posted March 4th, 2012 at 3:15 am (UTC-5)
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The International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing to Syrian authorities to let the humanitarian organization deliver badly needed food and other aid to thousands of people stranded in the rebel stronghold of Homs.

Activists say the humanitarian situation is dire in the Babr Amr district, with food, water and electricity running out as government forces continue to bombard the city.

ICRC spokesman Sean Maguire told Britain's Sky News Saturday a convoy of seven trucks carrying medical supplies and food entered Homs but was not allowed to go to Baba Amr. Maguire said the Red Cross was told it is not safe to proceed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is demanding unconditional humanitarian access to Syrian cities, saying there were “grisly reports” of summary executions and torture in Homs.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Syrian government's “savagery must stop.”

China is also calling for an immediate cease-fire, and for talks between the Syrian government and opposition. But a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman says there must not be any interference in the country's internal affairs under the pretext of humanitarian issues.

China and Russia have vetoed two U.N. resolutions condemning Syria.

Arab satellite channels reported that more 40 Syrian soldiers who tried to defect at an airbase in Idlib province were executed. In the same province, residents said cemetery workers were burying people in parks because the graveyards were targeted by Syrian forces.

Meanwhile, the remains of two journalists killed in a shelling attack on Baba Amr on February 22 – American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik – left Syria late Saturday on board a French plane to Paris. Their bodies were handed over to diplomats earlier in the day.

The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed since the revolt began last March. Syrian officials blame the uprising on foreign-backed armed “terrorists” who, the government says, have killed more than 2,000 security personnel.

“As requested by the French ambassador, the body of the French photographer will be transported to the French hospital in Damascus before being transported abroad. The process of delivering the body of the French photographer took place in the presence of representatives of the ICRC and the Arab Syrian Red Crescent with representatives of the French hospital. The body of the American journalist was also transported to the French hospital after being identified by specialists in the presence of the representatives of the Polish embassy. The two bodies have left Al-Assad University Hospital and gone to the French hospital, and we are ready to offer any type of help and co-operation in the process of transporting them outside the country and we are in waiting to do whatever it takes to get them abroad.”

AP feed: (Arabic) Issam Abbas, Idlib Cemetery worker:

“They (the Syrian army) don't let us pass the check point to get to the cemetery over there, they don't let us dig graves over there. So we have to dig graves in the park.”

(Arabic) Abdel Mohcen, Idlib Cemetery worker:

“They fired at us all the time, and they don't let me go there and work. Last time I was there I had four bullets fired at me when I was in the cemetery.”

(Arabic) No names given, sister and brother of Wahel Nahes:

“He left the house and he never came back, and I think that a mine blew him up.”