The collapse of a second U.N.-protected “safe area” drew closer Sunday as Bosnian Serb infantry, backed by tanks and artillery and ignoring NATO warplanes above, advanced on the heart of the Muslim enclave of Zepa.
Many of the 16,000 Muslim villagers trapped in the mountainous eastern enclave were hiding in basements or in caves while a small contingent of Bosnian government troops vowed to fight “to the last soldier.”
Most of the 79 Ukrainian U.N. peacekeepers who had been stationed to defend Zepa retreated to a base inside the town after their weapons had been seized by government forces.
“They (the Serbs) are in the enclave. They have encroached. They have advanced,” U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko said. “The future (of Zepa) is not extremely bright.”
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic served notice that his forces intend to conquer all the land lying east of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, to Serbia.
“The Muslim enclaves are not viable and must disappear, or we will do it by force,” Karadzic said.
Meanwhile, relief workers in the Bosnian city of Tuzla began documenting atrocities suffered by Muslims who had been deported from Srebrenica, the first protected enclave to fall to the Serbs. Refugees who have fled to Tuzla have reported seeing women being taken away by Serbian soldiers, presumably to be raped, and seeing men being executed.
“We are facing a genuine case of genocide,” said Emma Bonino, the European Union’s commissioner for humanitarian aid who was sent to inspect the handling of refugees in Tuzla - itself another so-called “safe area.”
Government and relief officials say approximately 23,000 refugees - the vast majority of them women, children and the elderly - have reached Tuzla after the Serbs had expelled them from Srebrenica. An estimated 15,000 people remain unaccounted for, including 4,000 men and boys thought to be being held at a soccer stadium in the Serb-held town of Bratunac.