Red Cross makes new bid to aid Syria

2012-03-03 14:35
Damascus - The Red Cross pressed efforts on Saturday to deliver desperately needed aid to the vanquished Syrian rebel stronghold of Baba Amr after the blocking of a first attempt sparked an international outcry.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded that Damascus allow in relief supplies immediately after it barred a seven-truck convoy organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society from entering the battered neighbourhood of Syria's third-largest city on Friday.

"We are still in talks," ICRC Damascus spokesperson Saleh Dabbakeh told AFP.

Red Crescent operations chief Khaled Erksoussi told AFP: "The authorities told us that were being denied access for security reasons."

The UN chief demanded that Syria unconditionally let in supplies after its troops overran the neighbourhood on Thursday, capping nearly a month of shelling it.

'Unacceptable, intolerable'

"The Syrian authorities must open without any preconditions to humanitarian communities," Ban told a press briefing at the UN headquarters.

"It is totally unacceptable, intolerable. How as a human being can you bear ... this situation," he added.

But Syrian UN envoy Bashar Jaafari accused the UN chief of "slandering" President Bashar al-Assad's government with his accounts of the deadly crackdown on the nearly year-old uprising.

The United States called all countries to condemn the "horrific" brutality in Syria as President Barack Obama declared that Assad's days were numbered.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: "What is going on is scandalous. There are more than 8 000 dead, hundreds of children, and the city of Homs faces the risk of being wiped off the map."

ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger said: "It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help."

Trapped civilians

More than 20 000 civilians are believed to have been trapped in Baba Amr during the month-long bombardment by regime forces, that culminated with its storming by regime ground troops when rebel fighters pulled out on Thursday.

Photographer Paul Conroy, who is recovering in hospital in Britain after being wounded in the bombardment of Baba Amr, painted a bleak picture of the plight of the neighbourhood.

"It's not a war, it's a massacre, an indiscriminate massacre of men, women and children," he told Sky News television.

The 47-year-old former soldier said regime forces had begun their attacks at 06:30 every morning, "systematically moving through neighbourhoods with munitions that are used for battlefields ... There were no targets".

He described the humanitarian situation as "more than a catastrophe", saying there was no power or water, and food was scarce.

"There's still thousands of people in Homs ... They're living in bombed-out wrecks, children six to a bed, rooms full of people waiting to die."

Suicide bombing

Ten people were shot dead in Baba Amr on Friday, among 47 people killed in violence nationwide, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle in Daraa, south of Damascus, killing two people and wounding 20, including security force personnel, the official SANA news agency reported.

The "suicide terrorist" struck near the Al-Masri roundabout in the centre of the city, which was the cradle of the uprising that erupted against Assad's regime last March, SANA said.

The attack was the latest in a string of suicide bombings to hit Syria since December which the authorities have blamed on al-Qaeda.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in an interview published on Friday that the jihadist network was moving its focus of operations to his country's western neighbour.

Terrorism problem

"Al-Qaeda has started migrating from Iraq to Syria," Maliki said in the interview with Saudi daily Okaz.

"Yesterday, Syria was considering itself outside the circle of the terrorism problem, and today, it is in the heart of the terrorism problem," he added.

On January 6, a car bomb exploded in Damascus killing 26 people and wounding dozens more, most of them civilians. State media said it was a suicide attack and blamed "terrorists".

That bombing came after twin bombs hit security services bases in the capital on December 23, with state media pointing the finger at al-Qaeda.

And twin car bombs in the northern city of Aleppo on February 10 killed 28 people and wounded 235.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  red cross  |  syria  |  uprisings

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