Besieged Syrian city of Homs facing humanitarian crisis

Besieged Syrian city of Homs facing humanitarian crisis

Life in Homs, known as the capital of the Syrian revolution, is becoming increasingly difficult as the violence between the government and opposition intensifies, dpa reported.

Residents in the city of around 2 million people find it hard to get basic supplies such as food, water and fuel, say opposition activists.

Water and electricity supplies to the district of Baba Amr, a major centre of resistance in Homs, has been cut.

The government's blockade on Homs has left many petrol stations without fuel, forcing the closure of businesses including bakeries, according to Syrian activists.

Omar Idlibi, a prominent activist based in Lebanon, says the situation in Homs "miserable."

Ahmed, a native of Homs who is working in Lebanon has just returned from visiting his family.

"They fill tank trucks with water from underground wells and distribute it outside mosques, in parking lots and sometimes in the middle of the streets," he said.

"Few supermarkets are still open. But their shelves are almost empty," he told dpa. Food and water are being sold on the streets for five times the normal price, according to Ahmed.

"We can live without water and food, we can live without electricity. But we can't live without freedom," he told dpa.

"They (the government) are doing what (slain Libyan leader Moamer) Gaddafi did with his people, when he deprived them of water and electricity to punish them for their uprising against him. We hope (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad will meet a fate worse than Gaddafi's," Ahmed said.

The protests in Syria began in mid-March, inspired by revolts that have led to the ousting of long-standing rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Like Benghazi in eastern Libya before the fall of Gaddafi, Homs has been a focal point in the uprising and the crackdown by troops loyal to the Syrian president.

"My family survived by eating biscuits for one week in early November due to heavy shelling by al-Assad forces of their neighbourhood in Homs," Ahmed said.

"The situation will worsen as the weather gets colder."

Idlibi, the activist, on Saturday estimated that some 1,000 tanks were stationed around Homs.

"Simply, the city is under siege," he added.

Dwindling revenues, increasing state subsidies and a paralysed tourism industry seem to have added to the woes of Syria's government and the people.

The price of state-subsidized heating on which Syrians rely heavily in winter, has soared from 31 to 78 US cents per litre since the uprising began.

The United States and Europe haves imposed sanctions on Damascus over the violence. The Arab League on Wednesday gave the government an ultimatum: allow monitors in to protect civilians or face economic sanctions. The deadline was set for Saturday.

On November 2, Damascus announced it would accept the peace plan drafted by the 22-member grouping. But, according to the opposition, 400 activists have been killed in Homs alone since.

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