- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An American reporter and a French photographer were among 39 people killed Wednesday in the flash-point Syrian city of Homs, a key target in President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on the 11-month-old anti-government uprising.

Marie Colvin, an American who worked for Britain’s Sunday Times, and French photographer Remi Ochlik died as they tried to flee a makeshift media center that had been hit by mortar shells.

Four other journalists were injured. One of them was in critical condition. Edith Bouvier, a reporter for the French newspaper Le Figaro, was among the injured.

The death toll throughout all of Syria exceeded 50.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sunday Times, described Ms. Colvin as “one of the most outstanding foreign correspondents of her generation.” He identified the newspaper’s photographer, Paul Conroy, as one of the injured journalists.

The deaths provoked a strong international outcry.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denounced the attack as “another example of the shameless brutality” of the Syrian regime.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “This shows that enough is enough. This regime must go.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killings in Parliament.

“This is a desperately sad reminder of the risks that journalists take to inform the world of what is happening and the desperate events in Syria,” he said.

Homs, a hotbed of the uprising, has been the target of unrelenting shelling by the regime’s forces since Feb. 4. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed, and more than 3,000 people have been killed, including women and children.

The city was hit by more than 240 mortar shells on Wednesday. Pro-Assad snipers also have killed many civilians.

“Everyday we lose our friends and relatives. Today, we also lost two brave and honest journalists,” said Sami Ibrahim, a Homs-based spokesman for the Syrian Network of Human Rights.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 5,400 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011.

In Homs, the neighborhoods of Baba Amr, Al Khaldiyeh, Inshaat and Kharm al-Zeytoun have borne the brunt of the regime’s bombardment.

Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization, said patients have been denied treatment because of the “regime’s terror tactics.”

It accused the government of “arresting and torturing the wounded who go to public hospitals and conducting a merciless war against the clandestine medical networks treating the victims of repression.”

Wounded are now sent to makeshift field hospitals, which lack basic medical supplies.

Rami al-Sayed, a prominent citizen journalist who broadcast live video footage of the assault on Homs, was among the 39 people who were killed in the city on Wednesday.

“The doctors were helpless and crying. They didn’t have even a single blood bag to do a transfusion for Rami,” said Dr. Mousab Azzawi, chairman of the London-based Syrian Network of Human Rights.

“He could have lived if we had three blood bags,” he added.

In an Internet phone interview, Mr. Ibrahim described the situation at the makeshift hospitals as a “disaster.”

“We are unable to do anything. We can only watch our brothers and children die in front of our eyes,” he said.