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Red Cross Makes New Rescue Bid in Syria's Besieged Homs

 
 
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Graphic map of Syria locating the flashpoint central city of Homs. The Red Cross has made a new attempt to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

 The Red Cross made a new attempt on Saturday to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

The humanitarian effort came after Arab and Western states urged Damascus to "immediately cease all violence" to allow access, more than three weeks into a deadly assault on rebels in Syria's third largest city.

But forces of embattled President Bashar al-Assad resumed their shelling of Homs' Baba Amr district Saturday, and attacked elsewhere, killing at least 16 civilians across the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Six of them, including a woman and a girl, were gunned down when security forces clashed with army defectors at Ezaz, in northern Aleppo province, the Observatory said.

Police also opened fire to disperse a demonstration of some 4,000 people who took to the street in the neighbourhood of Sayef al-Dawla, in the city of Aleppo, for the funeral of a civilian killed on Friday.

In Homs, the International Committee of the Red Cross was negotiating on Saturday to resume evacuations from Baba Amr, it said.

"Discussions continue in Homs Saturday in order to pursue the evacuation of those in need of urgent medical care," the ICRC's Saleh Dabbakeh told AFP.

The spokesman confirmed the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on Friday evacuated seven Syrians wounded in shelling by regime forces as well as 20 sick women and children. They were taken to Homs' Al-Amine hospital.

But they did not evacuate two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others, said the ICRC.

A Western diplomat confirmed the ICRC and SARC were still negotiating for the evacuation of the wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others.

France said Friday it was intensifying its diplomatic efforts to rescue the wounded journalists.

"We are pursuing our efforts more than ever to obtain a secure medical evacuation of the foreign journalists," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told AFP.

The Red Crescent said on its Facebook page that "in addition to the seven wounded, it also evacuated 20 women and children" on Friday.

Eleven ambulances and other vehicles drove into Baba Amr, but only three ambulances left with hurt Syrians, although Dabbakeh said earlier the operation would also include the Western journalists.

American reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed on Wednesday when a rocket hit a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr, a rebel stronghold.

French reporter Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy suffered leg wounds in the same attack.

"My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally. I need to be operated upon as soon as possible," Bouvier said in a video Thursday.

Assad's government accused rebels in Baba Amr of refusing to hand over Bouvier and the bodies of the two killed journalists to rescuers.

"The concerned authorities in Homs, moved by humanitarian considerations, sent several local officials and Red Crescent ambulances to evacuate the Western journalists who entered Syria illegally," SANA state news agency quoted an official as saying.

"Despite efforts that lasted several hours, armed groups in Baba Amr refused to hand over the wounded woman (Bouvier) and the two bodies, thus endangering the life of the wounded French journalist," the official added.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, in Tunis for an international conference on the Syrian crisis, had urged Damascus to allow for the evacuation of the journalists.

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In the Tunisian capital, some 60 governments gathered Friday for the inaugural meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group expressed "strong concern" about the humanitarian situation.

The group said it would deliver humanitarian supplies immediately, if the regime ended the violence.

It also called for a "political solution" to the crisis and recognised the Syrian National Council, the main opposition coalition, as "a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change."

On Saturday, China's Xinhua state news agency accused the United States and Europe of "harbouring hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow, which have so far frustrated efforts to rein in Assad's regime, boycotted the Tunis meeting.

Western and most Arab governments have so far rejected the idea of a foreign mission like the NATO-led operation that helped topple Moamer Kadhafi's regime in Libya last year.

An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV shows Red Crescent ambulances in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on February 24. The Red Cross has made a new attempt to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

Lebanese protesters and Syrian expatriates hold pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during

a demonstration in support of the Syrian regime in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

The Red Cross has made a new attempt to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs,

two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

 

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube shows smoke rising from reported shelling by Syrian regime

forces of the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs. Image cannot be independently verified. The Red Cross has made

a new attempt to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

 

An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV shows Red Crescent medics evacuating a wounded Syrian from the besieged Syrian city of Homs on February 24. The Red Cross has made a new attempt to bring out people trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians.

Agence France-Presse / By

Posted at February 25, 2012, 4:30am

 
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