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Question of the Day
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria blocked a Red Cross convoy Friday from delivering badly needed food, medical supplies and blankets to a rebellious neighborhood of Homs cut off by a monthlong siege, and activists accused regime troops who overran the shattered district of execution-style killings and a scorched-earth campaign.
Humanitarian conditions in the former rebel stronghold of Baba Amr have been described as catastrophic, with extended power outages, shortages of food and water, and no medical care for the sick and wounded.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called Homs “a scene of medieval barbarity.”
Syrian state TV showed burned-out and destroyed buildings in Baba Amr, a western neighborhood of Homs, which was covered with a blanket of fresh snow.
Syrian government forces took control of Baba Amr on Thursday after rebels fled the district under constant bombardment that activists said killed hundreds of people since early February. The Syrian regime has said it was fighting “armed gangs” in Baba Amr, and had vowed to “cleanse” the neighborhood.
“It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,” said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross said it had received permission from the government of President Bashar Assad on Thursday to enter Baba Amr, on the western side of Homs, and a convoy of seven trucks carrying 15 tons of humanitarian aid was poised to do so, but authorities then blocked their access. There was no explanation from the government about the change.
“We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future,” Kellenberger said.
Bassel Fouad, a Syrian activist who fled to Lebanon from Baba Amr, said a colleague there told him Friday that Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen known as shabiha were conducting house-to-house raids.
His colleague said the gunmen lined 10 men up early Friday and shot them to death in front of a government cooperative that sells subsidized food. Syrian forces were detaining anyone over the age of 14 in the three-story building, he added.
“They begin at the start of a street and enter and search house after house,” he said. “Then they start with another street.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said it had received reports of 10 people slain in front of a co-op and called on the Red Cross team heading to Homs to investigate claims by residents the building is being used a prison. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, said 14 were killed.
The claims could not be independently verified. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva that the agency had received unconfirmed reports of “a particularly grisly set of summary executions” involving 17 people in Baba Amr after government forces entered.
Colville said his office was seeking to confirm the reports and called on both government and rebel forces to refrain from all forms of revenge attacks.
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