Red Cross prevented from entering battered district in Homs

Photo: Red Cross prevented from entering battered district in Homs / Arab World

Syria prevented the Red Cross from delivering humanitarian aid to the Baba Amr district on Friday, as activists accused government troops of carrying out executions after capturing the rebellious area, dpa reported.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Red Crescent want to enter Baba Amr to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies after almost a month of government shelling attacks to crush rebel fighters.

The ICRC said its workers were not allowed to enter the district, despite getting an authorization from Syrian authorities on Thursday.

"We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future. In addition, many families have fled Baba Amr, and we will help them as soon as we possibly can," ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.

"We reiterate the appeal we made several days ago, for a daily two-hour halt in the fighting to allow humanitarian assistance," Kellenberger added. "The humanitarian situation was very serious then, and it is worse now."

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said Friday the organization was "alarmed" at reports that government troops had executed opponents in Baba Amr.

"It is essential that there are no unlawful reprisals, no summary executions, no torture, and no arbitrary detention. And the rights of those who are detained must be respected," Colville said.

Rebels seeking the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from Baba Amr on Thursday, after being worn down by the government attacks.

Opposition activist Abu Imad, who is based in Lebanon, said government forces executed at least 10 men after capturing the rebellious district.

British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed there would be a day of reckoning for Syrian officials for their deadly crackdown on an 11-month uprising against al-Assad.

"One day, no matter how long it takes, there will be a day of reckoning for this dreadful regime," Cameron said in Brussels, piling more pressure on the increasingly isolated Syrian regime.

The European Union said on Friday there were indications that Russia and China, Syria's main allies, were softening their objections to Western efforts to condemn al-Assad's government.

"We are seeing signals that there is movement in the position of both countries," EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters in Brussels, where European leaders raise the prospect of more sanctions on Damascus.

"It is not sustainable to let things happen as they happen in Syria," Van Rompuy said. "Those big countries are step-by-step (becoming) aware of the situation on the ground - that it is, even for their position in the Arab world, very dangerous to continue to be completely isolated."

China and Russia vetoed a Western and Arab League-backed UN Security Council resolution in February demanding an end to the violence and asking al-Assad to step down.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on the Syrian regime to carry out reforms and urged Syrians to "stop killing each other."

Putin said in an interview published on Friday: "A bad peace is always better than a good war."

The Syrian government appears determined to crush the rebellion, which it blames on armed gangs supported by foreign powers.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees said that at least 75 people were killed across Syria on Friday, including 34 in the Homs province.

In the southern province of Daraa, near the border with Jordan, loyalist soldiers opened fire on pro-democracy protesters, killing 11 civilians, activists said. Protesters shouted slogans demanding that Arab and Western powers arm the rebel Syrian Free Army.

Activists said eight protesters were also killed in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city.

Meanwhile, French journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, who were injured in Homs last month, were flown back home from Lebanon. They were trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs for nine days before being smuggled out of the country via Lebanon.

President Nicolas Sarkozy warned as he met the plane carrying the two that Syria's authorities would be "called to account for their crimes by international criminal jurisdictions,"

Bouvier, 31, was carried by stretcher from the plane and taken away in an ambulance for treatment. She was injured in an attack last week on a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr, in which US reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed.

Syria's official news agency SANA reported that the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik were found by government forces after troops captured Baba Amr.

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