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Red Cross denied entry to besieged Homs neighbourhood

Meanwhile, the organisation says it has received the bodies of Western journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

Syrian nationals who live in Greece shout slogans and wave the revolutionary Syrian flag during a protest in Athens today.
Syrian nationals who live in Greece shout slogans and wave the revolutionary Syrian flag during a protest in Athens today.
Image: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis/PA Images

THE RED CROSS says that the Syrian government has blocked its aid convoy from entering the besieged Baba Amr district of the western city of Homs, which has been suffering weeks of heavy shelling by state forces.

The organisation said yesterday that it had received permission to enter the neighbourhood and was prparing to do so today when it was denied entry.

“It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,” said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger. “We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future.”

Conditions in Baba Amr have reportedly been seriously deteriorating due to ongoing power cuts, medical supply shortages, water shortages and cold weather conditions.

Colvin and Ochlik

The International Committee of the Red Cross also says it now has the bodies of two foreign reporters killed in Syria and is taking them to Damascus.

Syrian activists had reportedly buried the bodies in Homs, but Syrian authorities disinterred the remains and have handed them over to the Red Cross.

Red Cross spokesman Bijan Farnoudi told The Associated Press today that the group is transporting the remains of American reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik to the Syrian capital.

The two reporters were killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs last month.

Meanwhile, two French journalists who had been smuggled out of Syria flew to France today, a week after one of them suffered injuries in that shelling of Homs, officials said.

Edith Bouvier and William Daniels were taken on a medically equipped plane, said airport officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. Francois Abi Saab, a French Embassy spokeswoman, confirmed the two journalists left Lebanon.

Greeting the pair upon arrival, President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Bouvier’s courage and the “almost chivalrous spirit of her partner in misfortune, William Daniels, who never abandoned Edith Bouvier even though he was unhurt and had other possibilities of getting out.”

In brief remarks before the pair descended from the plane, Sarkozy criticised Syrian authorities.

“I want to say in the most solemn way that the Syrian authorities will have to answer to international legal authorities for their crimes. The crimes they committed will not go unpunished,” he said before entering the aircraft himself to join the returning journalists and their relatives.

- Additional reporting by Susan Ryan

Read: China and Russia join the West in criticising Syria >

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