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Syrians in Homs feel abandoned by world

Residents are pessimistic about last week's "Friends of Syria" conference and say they see no real pressure for change.

By Erika SolomonReuters / February 25, 2012

Damaged houses in Homs, Syria.

Syrian National Council/Handout

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The Syrian military took its bombardment of the rebel-held Baba Amro district of Homs into a fourth week on Saturday as the Red Cross tried to evacuate more distressed civilians from the city.

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At least 28 people were killed in Syria on Saturday, including nine in Homs, Syria's third city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The state news agency SANA reported the funerals of 18 members of the security forces killed by "armed terrorist groups" in Homs, Deraa, Idlib and the Damascus countryside.

Deploring the outcome of an international "Friends of Syria" conference, opposition activists said the world had abandoned them to be killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

"They (foreign leaders) are still giving opportunities to this man who is killing us and has already killed thousands of people," said Nadir Husseini, an activist in Baba Amro.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had resumed negotiations with the Syrian authorities and the opposition to enable more civilians to be brought to safety.

Husseini said people in Baba Amro were suspicious of the ICRC's local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and did not want to work with a group "under the control of the regime."

The ICRC denied this, saying the Syrian Red Crescent was an independent organization. "Their volunteers are risking their lives on a daily basis to help everyone with no exceptions," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

The ICRC said the Syrian Red Crescent had evacuated a total of 27 people from Baba Amro on Friday.

Four Western journalists, two of whom were wounded in an attack that killed two other foreign journalists on Wednesday have yet to be extracted from the shattered neighborhood.

Activists in Homs, a city of over 800,000 people located at the junction of highways leading from Damascus to Aleppo and the coast to the interior, described Friday's Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia as a failure that had brought them no relief.

"I don't really care about the Tunis conference. All I care about is getting help for my family in the besieged areas," said Waleed Fares, contacted from Beirut. "The political calculations are not the same as the calculations for us revolutionaries."

A video uploaded by activists in Homs' Khalidiya district showed crowds at a funeral, shouting "We swear to God we will not be silent about our martyrs." In the background, clouds of smoke were rising from buildings that activists said had been hit by shell fire.

Civilians are enduring desperate conditions in Baba Amro.

"We have hundreds of wounded people crammed into houses," the activist Husseini said. "People are dying from lack of blood because we just don't have the capability of treating everyone."

The Tunis conference of Western, Arab and other countries was intended to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Assad to end an almost year-long crackdown on opponents of his 11-year rule in which thousands of Syrians have been killed.

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