| 03.03,12. 10:36 PM |
Syrian troops shell Homs again
March 3, 2012 - 8:56PM Read later
Syrian troops have shelled several districts in the rebellious central city of Homs where a standoff continues between a Red Cross convoy and the government that has blocked the delivery of food, medical supplies and blankets to the thousands still stranded in the area.
Abu Hassan al-Homsi, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Khaldiyeh district of Homs, said he treated a dozen wounded on Saturday.
‘‘This has become routine. The mortars start falling early in the morning,’’ he said.
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Several homes were damaged from the morning shelling, which he described as steady but intermittent. Most of those he treated were lightly wounded, al-Homsi added.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network said mortars slammed into Khaldiyeh, Bab Sbaa and Khader districts of the city early on Saturday.
The shelling comes amid a standoff between the government and the Red Cross, which says authorities have prevented its convoy from delivering badly needed supplies to the former rebel stronghold of Baba Amr that was overrun by troops on Thursday.
Humanitarian conditions in Baba Amr, a western neighbourhood of Homs, have been described as catastrophic, with extended power outages, shortages of food and water, and no medical care for the sick and wounded.
Syrian government forces took control of the neighbourhood after rebels fled the district under constant bombardment that activists said killed hundreds of people since early February.
The Syrian regime has said it was fighting ‘‘armed gangs’’ in Baba Amr, and had vowed to ‘‘cleanse’’ the neighbourhood.
‘‘It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,’’ said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross said it had received permission from the government of President Bashar Assad on Thursday to enter Baba Amr, on the western side of Homs.
A convoy of seven trucks with 15 tons of humanitarian aid left Damascus on Friday, taking several hours in heavy snowfall to reach Homs.
Once in Homs, it was poised to enter Baba Amr but authorities then blocked their access, the Red Cross said.
There was no explanation from the government about the change.
‘‘We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future,’’ Kellenberger said on Friday night.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria to give humanitarian workers immediate access to people who desperately need aid.
‘‘The images which we have seen in Syria are atrocious,’’ said Ban. ‘‘It’s totally unacceptable, intolerable. How, as a human being, can you bear this situation?’’
The Assad regime’s nearly yearlong crackdown on an uprising that began with mostly peaceful protests but has veered toward civil war has killed more than 7500 people, according to most recent UN estimates. Activists put the death toll at over 8000.