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3 Mar, 2012 10:24

Red Cross blocked in Homs amid atrocity crossfire

A Red Cross relief mission to the battered city of Homs is being prevented from reaching the Baba Amr district by Syrian government forces.

The ICRC President slammed the delay as "unacceptable," saying he hoped the convoy would enter the area “in the very near future.”The seven-truck convoy carrying food, water, medical supplies and milk for children, was to enter the city following the retreat of the Free Syrian Army.Eyewitnesses report a chaotic situation in Baba Amr, where infrastructure is badly damaged; there is no water, food or electricity; and shops and schools remain closed.Ekaterina Kretova, who accompanied the Syrian Red Crescent in Homs, says she witnessed scenes of carnage in the war-torn city:"I saw with my own eyes the killing, the bloodshed and the bodies on the streets. Many of the people in Homs have not sided with the government or rebels – they just want to be left alone, and to survive. From what I saw – the blame for the violence lies equally with the government and opposition rebels, who also fired missiles indiscriminately at government forces."Reports also say that 100 bodies showing signs of torture have been found in the city.A Russian resident of Homs told RT by phone that while in the town, the rebels acted barbarously.“They kill both young and old. They steal people from their homes and chop them into pieces, put them in plastic bags and throw them out!”There is also potential for revenge attacks on the part of the rebels.“The chief of the Free Syrian Army has claimed it withdrew tactically. Shortly after that the opposition Syrian National Council claimed they would provide leadership to disorganized fighters and give them weapons,” RT’s Maria Finoshina reported from the ground. She added that there were widespread concerns that the humanitarian ceasefire which the international community is currently lobbying for could be used “to bring weapons to the rebels.”The ICRC aid mission arrives in the troubled area after a number of failed attempts to deliver aid and rescue foreign journalists trapped in the war zone.The bodies of two journalists killed on February 22, American Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, were handed over to the ICRC by the Syrian authorities on Friday. They have been taken by ambulance from Homs to Damascus.Two other French journalists, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, both of Le Figaro Magazine, were wounded during the siege of Homs. They were taken to Beirut, then on a special ambulance plane to the Villacoublay airfield in France. They were then transported to Paris. French President Nicolas Sarkozy thanked the Lebanese and Syrian authorities for their help in evacuating Bouvier and Daniels to safety.Aisling Byrne, of the Conflicts Forum in Beirut, told RT the Red Crescent twice sent ambulances to Baba Amr, but both times they were blocked by the FSA.The humanitarian mission “did get ambulances through to take injured journalists out of Homs, and it was actually the Free Syrian Army who refused to let them leave,” she said, adding that the FSA also obstructed the evacuation of injured civilians.