March 4, 2012 in Nation/World

Syrian city under renewed assault

Government forces shell several areas
Zeina Karam Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A boy plays in a park converted to a cemetery in Idlib province, Syria, on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

Bodies

released

In Damascus, Red Crescent officials handed over to embassy officials the bodies of two foreign journalists who were killed in shelling while trapped inside Baba Amr. French Ambassador Eric Chevallier received the body of French photographer Remi Ochlik, and a Polish diplomat received the remains of American Marie Colvin. U.S. interests in Syria are represented by Poland.

BEIRUT – Syrian forces launched a fresh assault on Homs on Saturday as the Red Cross pressed forward with efforts to deliver badly needed aid to thousands of people stranded in a besieged neighborhood despite warnings from regime troops of land mines and booby traps.

Two days after they fought their way into the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr, government forces shelled several other neighborhoods of the city, the country’s third largest with about 1 million people. They included districts where many of Baba Amr’s residents had fled, activists said.

The Syrian regime has said it was fighting “armed gangs” in Baba Amr, which has become a symbol of the nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule. The revolt has killed more than 7,500 people, according to the U.N.

The Local Coordination Committees activist network said mortars slammed into the districts of Khaldiyeh, Bab Sbaa and Khader.

Abu Hassan al-Homsi, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Khaldiyeh, said he treated a dozen people who were wounded, most lightly.

“This has become routine: The mortars start falling early in the morning,” he said.

Conditions in Baba Amr are believed to be dire, with extended power outages, shortages of food and water, and lack of medical care. Syrian government forces took control of the neighborhood Thursday after rebels fled the district under constant bombardment that activists said killed hundreds of people since early February.

The Red Cross said the regime blocked its entry to Baba Amr on Friday, one day after the group received government permission to enter with a convoy of seven trucks carrying 15 tons of humanitarian aid including food, medical supplies and blankets.

The Syrians said they were not letting the Red Cross into Baba Amr because of safety concerns, including land mines, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Saturday in Geneva. The government has not offered an official explanation.

In the northern Idlib province, cemetery workers were burying people in parks because the graveyards were targets for regime forces, residents said.

Also Saturday, a suicide car bomb exploded in Daraa, killing at least two people and wounding 20, activists said.

The state-run news agency blamed “terrorists” for the attack. But residents taking part in the funeral of the two on Saturday blamed the regime. “They were killed by an explosion prepared by the Assad gang,” a banner read.

Daraa is the birthplace of the uprising against Assad, which started after government forces arrested Daraa students because they scrawled anti-regime graffiti on a wall.

China’s Foreign Ministry offered a proposal today to end the violence in Syria, calling for an immediate cease-fire and talks by all parties but standing firm against any intervention by outside forces.

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