Syrian rebels pull out of besieged Homs
Most rebel troops were pushed out of the area by President Assad’s forces on Thursday, AP reports. The Baba Amr brigade says it pulled back in order to allow some 4,000 civilian residents who had remained in their homes during the siege to escape to safety, and warned that the government will pay dearly for “targeting the civilian population in Homs.”
“We urge the international community and Muslim and Arab states to intervene immediately to prevent a potential massacre in the coming hours against tens of thousands of children, women and elderly people,” the Syrian National Council said.
The BBC reports that the rebels' withdrawal may have been made in accordance with some agreement with the government. But online reports on behalf of the Baba Amr brigade say the rebels didn’t have enough arms to protect the people in Homs.
And getting ready for further bombardment, the Syrian opposition made another strategic move to unify its various armed resistance factions, pushing the country further down the road to civil war.
"The revolution started peacefully and kept up its peaceful nature for months, but the reality today is different – and the SNC must shoulder its responsibilities in the face of this new reality," said the leadership of Syrian National Council.
Syrian authorities said they're up against armed gangs and terrorists in Homs. The Syrian Red Crescent has been allowed to provide humanitarian aid to the civilian population under siege there, who are in dire need of food and medical supplies. Al Arabiya described the situation there as “extremely worrying.”
“The ICRC and the SARC will go on Friday to Baba Amr to deliver humanitarian aid and evacuate the wounded,” ICRC spokesman in Damascus Saleh Dabbakeh told AFP.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council together with Russia and Chine urged Assad’s government to grant access to the UN's humanitarian chief.
Syrian media have reported the arrests of French officers during security operations. RT’s Maria Finoshina says France has responded to the claims by returning its Ambassador to Damascus. This follows claims by the Free Syrian Army that it had received anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons from French and American sources.
‘Kofi Annan shouldn’t be sticking his nose into Syria any more than Angelina Jolie’
Patrick Hayes, reporter for the online Spite magazine, says French President Nicolas Sarkozy will have questions to answer about the alleged presence of French troops on the ground.
"I doubt there is a concerted and coordinated effort to really put troops on the ground going behind the backs of the UN, but at the same time I do think it is a worrying state of affairs,” he told RT. “I do think the French will need to explain exactly what was going on here – and be very upfront about that.”
He also noted that Syria is facing an internal conflict, and that “celebrities” like Kofi Annan should not be telling the Syrian people how to run their affairs.
“I don’t think Kofi Annan should be sticking his nose in the Syrian people’s business any more than Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie,” he said.
As for the Syrian National Council, Hayes compared the body to the Libyan Transitional Council, saying it was “basically a council of academics, people who are seen to be safe for the West to do business with.”
The Syrian Nation Council, in Hayes’ opinion, should "represent the views of the Syrian people, not the views of the international community.”