Red Cross denied access to shattered Syrian district

Red Cross denied access to shattered Syrian district

The Syrian government is continuing to prevent the delivery of much needed aid to the battered Baba Amr district in Homs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and opposition activists said Saturday, dpa reported.

"The Syrian authorities gave us the green light to enter, but so far we have been unable to get in," said Saleh Dabbikeh, an ICRC spokesman in Damascus.

A Red Cross convoy had already been prevented from delivering food and medical supplies to Baba Amr on Friday. The province has been targeted by shelling for almost a month as government forces seek to quash a local rebellion.

"We are in contact with local authorities to get access and to achieve a daily ceasefire," an ICRC spokesman in Geneva, Bijan Farnoudi, said.

One Syrian activist based in northern Lebanon said: "The Syrian regime is making different excuses to keep the Red Cross at bay. It alleges that the buildings and streets of Baba Amr are infested with booby traps and that there are still pockets of resistance that must be eliminated.

"This is untrue. There are some 4,000 people still living in Baba Amr and the regime's television has been showing footage from inside the district since yesterday," said the activist, who asked not to be named.

"Why is Syrian television allowed to move freely inside the district while the Red Cross is denied entry? The regime wants to cover up its crimes," he added.

The ICRC's involvement comes amid claims by the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights that the government executed 44 soldiers after seizing the rebellious district on Thursday.

The executions were carried out at a military airport in the province of Idlib, near the border with Turkey, apparently to deter soldiers from defecting, activists said.

Abu Imad, another Syrian activist, said government troops were busy "terrorizing" residents of Baba Amr.

"They want to kill as many people as they can before the Red Cross is allowed in," he told dpa.

Meanwhile, Syria's official news agency reported that three civilians and an unidentified suicide bomber had been killed in a car bombing in the southern province of Daraa.

Twenty civilians and security personnel were also injured in the attack, according to the agency.

In other developments, the bodies of two Western journalists killed in Homs last month have been handed over by Syrian authorities to diplomats at a hospital in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Marie Colvin, a US reporter, and Remi Ochlik, a French freelance photographer, were reportedly killed in a government shelling attack on Baba Amr.

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