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Red Cross attempts to rescue Syrians and journalists trapped in Homs

Negotiations between aid agencies and the Syrian government come after just over two dozen people were evacuated from the besieged city yesterday.

Supporters of the Free Syrian Army ride a motorcycle with a rocket-propelled grenade in Kafar Taharim, Syria
Supporters of the Free Syrian Army ride a motorcycle with a rocket-propelled grenade in Kafar Taharim, Syria
Image: Rodrigo Abd/AP/Press Association Images

THE RED CROSS has said that it is continuing attempts to rescue Syrians who are trapped by the heavy shelling of the city of Homs.

Yesterday several people were evacuated from the city for the first time since the Syrian army loyal to president Bashar Assad began bombarding it with shells. Dozens have died including two journalists earlier this week.

The heaviest shelling has hit the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr where two foreign journalists are injured and trapped. They are being looked after by local medics and have already issued an appeal for urgent assistance.

BBC News explains that yesterday three Syrian Red Crescent Society ambulances evacuated 20 women and children as well as seven sick wounded people from the Baba Amr district.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson Hichma Hassan told AP that it is trying to get those in need of help out of Baba Amr and together with the Syrian Red Crescent Society is in negotiations with government authorities.

“Until last night, seven wounded persons were evacuated from Baba Amr, as well as 20 women and children,” he said.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry accused gunmen of blocking the evacuation of the wounded journalists.

However, activists said that French journalist Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times refused to leave Baba Amr with the Syrian Red Crescent Society and demanded that they be taken out by the ICRC.

The bodies of two journalists — the Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik who died in shelling on Wednesday — are still in Baba Amr.

Negotiations

The ICRC said today on its website that it is negotiating with the Syrian authorities and opposition in the hope of securing a halt to fighting for two-hours per day to allow humanitarian assistance in.

“What we want is an immediate halt in the fighting so we can access Homs and the other affected areas to deliver much needed humanitarian aid,” said ICRC spokesperson Carla Haddad.

Yesterday, the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference took place in Tunisia where more than 70 countries pledged to co-operate with opposition groups looking to end the brutal Assad regime’s crackdown but they stopped short of offering direct military assistance.

The Syrian uprising began almost a year ago with mostly peaceful protests in a number of the country’s impoverished provinces. As security forces violently suppressed them, killing thousands, the protest grew and escalated into an increasingly armed insurrection.

The UN said last month that 5,400 people had been killed and hundreds more have died since, particularly in Homs which is considered a rebel stronghold in places.

Activists put the number at more than 7,300, but overall figures are impossible to confirm independently.

Assad has announced a referendum on a new constitution which will take place tomorrow. The charter would allow a bigger role for political opposition to challenge Assad’s Baath Party, which has controlled Syria since a 1963 coup.

But leaders of the uprising have dismissed the vote as an attempt at superficial reforms that do nothing to break the regime’s hold on power.

- additional reporting from AP

Ireland joins international bid to help Syrian rebels – but no military action

French journalist injured in Homs shelling appeals for evacuation

UN to send top humanitarian official to Syria as civil war looms


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Hugh O'Connell

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