Syria Still Blocking Red Cross from Baba Amr

Posted March 4th, 2012 at 11:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian authorities are still keeping Red Cross teams from entering the beleaguered Baba Amr district of the former rebel-held city of Homs.

Activists say they are getting more and more concerned for civilians stranded in Baba Amr. Activists say the entire city of Homs faces a humanitarian catastrophe with electricity, water and communications cut off. Food is running low, and many people are too scared to leave their homes. The weather in recent days has been cold and snowy.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said teams distributed aid to the Baba Amr refugees in villages three kilometers from Homs Sunday. But ICRC officials say Syrian troops continue to block them from Baba Amr itself, saying it is for security reasons.

Opposition sources said the government is trying to prevent the Red Cross from witnessing “massacres” by Syrian soldiers who are hunting down remaining rebels.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he has gotten “grisly reports” that troops were executing and torturing people in Homs. Rebels abandoned their positions in Homs last week after a month of non-stop shelling by Syrian forces.

Shelling and other violence continued across Syria Sunday sending one of the biggest surges of refugees across the border into Lebanon in a single day since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began one year ago.

U.N. officials told Reuters that up to 2,000 refugees were in the process of crossing the border into Lebanon, as the military deployed in Beirut to prevent clashes between rival demonstrations of supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Activists said pro-Assad troops shelled the rebel-held town of Rastan, north of Homs, killing seven civilians Sunday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal is urging Russia to “advise” its ally Syria to stop its deadly crackdown. He says opposition fighters should be armed. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have discussed sending military aid to the Syrian rebels, but the United States and others have cautioned against such a move, expressing fear of a wider conflict.

China is calling on the Syrian government and opponents to agree on an immediate cease-fire and to start talks. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry cautioned Sunday that 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.

The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed in 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.