Syrian forces pound Homs and block aid convoy

Sat Mar 3, 2012 12:15pm GMT

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces pounded the battered city of Homs on Saturday and blocked aid reaching civilians stranded for weeks without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold, activists and aid workers said.

The renewed government assault came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received "grisly reports" that President Bashar al-Assad's troops were executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Syria's third largest city.

"In an act of pure revenge, Assad's army has been firing mortar rounds and 500mm machine guns since this morning at Jobar," said the Syrian Network for Human Rights, referring to a neighbourhood adjacent to Baba Amro, the Homs district from which Free Syrian Army rebels pulled out this week after almost a month of bombardment.

"We have no immediate reports of casualties because of the difficulty of communications," it said in a statement.

Concern was mounting for civilians in freezing conditions in battered Baba Amro, where International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) trucks were still blocked from entering.

"The ICRC and Syrian Red Crescent are not yet in Baba Amro today. We are still in negotiations with authorities in order to enter Baba Amro. It is important that we enter today," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva.

A Damascus-based ICRC spokesman said Syrian authorities had given the convoy permission to enter but that government forces on the ground had stopped the trucks because of what they said were unsafe conditions.

"There has been fighting there for at least a month. The situation cannot be good. They will need food, it's cold, they will need blankets. And there are injured there that need to be evacuated immediately," Saleh Dabbakeh told Reuters.   Continued...

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Friday prayers in Yabroud near Damascus March 2, 2012.       REUTER/Handout
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.