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8:37pm UK, Friday March 02, 2012
The Syrian government has blocked the Red Cross from entering the stricken Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr amid reports of revenge killings by government forces.
A convoy of seven trucks loaded with emergency medical aid, blankets and food has been attempting to reach the area since early on Friday.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was “unacceptable” that the relief operation had been halted by the Syrian authorities which had originally pledged to allow access.
Wounded Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy describes scenes in Homs
The organisation said it would be staying in Homs overnight and hoped to enter Bab Amr soon.
Local activists claimed government troops have been going from house to house inside the district, arresting young men.
There are unconfirmed reports of mass executions, with claims that 10 people were killed today and 17 on Thursday.
The regime’s forces shelled the neighbourhood for 27 days, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians, before the rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army retreated and the area fell to the government’s control.
The Red Cross said many of the residents have fled from Baba Amr and it was trying to offer them assistance.
It was also aiming to rescue some of the most badly injured from inside the neighbourhood and address the shortage of water and food.
Videos posted online showed violence continuing elsewhere in Syria with activists reporting scores dead.
In Rastan, to the north of Homs, children were among at least 12 people who were reported killed when government forces fired mortars at an anti-government demonstration.
A satellite image of Homs’ Baba Amr district
A video shows a few hundred people – all unarmed civilians – chanting for the downfall of President Bashar al Assad when a huge explosion shakes the camera.
The bodies of several people are seen lying on the ground as people flee in terror.
Meanwhile, magistrates in Paris have opened a murder probe into an attack on a makeshift media centre in Homs last week, in which Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed.
Their bodies have now been released to the Red Cross. Ms Colvin’s colleague, photographer Paul Conroy, is back in the UK and has spoken to Sky News about the desperate situation in Homs.
The international community is continuing to round on the government of Mr Assad, with the UN Security Council calling on Syria to allow “immediate” humanitarian access to protest cities.
The call was supported by Russia and China, which have previously vetoed two resolutions on the conflict that has claimed thousands of lives in nearly a year.
Speaking at a news conference at the close of a European Union summit, David Cameron described the situation in Homs as “a scene of medieval barbarity”, with residents under constant shelling and lacking water, food and medicine.
He called on Syrians who were “butchering” Syrians to turn their backs on the “criminal” Damascus regime as the EU issued a strong new call for the perpetrators of the violence to be brought to book.
Referring to the war crimes trial of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, the Prime Minister said: “We will make sure, as we did in Serbia, that there is a day of reckoning for those who are responsible.
“So I have a clear message for those in authority in Syria: turn your back on this criminal regime or face justice for the blood that is on your hands.”
However, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticised the West for backing Syrian opposition fighters against the government, saying it has fuelled the conflict.