The Envoy

Syria delivers journalists’ bodies to Red Cross but blocks aid convoy

The Envoy


The bodies of American and French journalists killed in Syria were handed over to aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the besieged Syrian city of Homs on Friday, a day after Syrian security forces overtook the city following a rebel retreat.

The Red Cross confirmed Friday that it had received the bodies of American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed last week in a mortar attack while covering the terror of Homs' residents enduring Syrian forces' weeks-long indiscriminate assault.

The ICRC said it was blocked, however, from bringing a convoy of emergency humanitarian aid into the devastated Baba Amr neighborhood of the city, which was reportedly in ruins after being under sustained assault from Syrian forces for the past month.

"Unfortunately no access today to BabaAmr," the ICRC's spokeswoman Carla Haddad Mardini wrote on Twitter Friday. "We were not allowed to enter BabaAmr and assist the people in need Syria."

ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger called the blocking of aid unacceptable. He also appealed to Syrian authorities for a two-hour daily ceasefire in Syria to allow humanitarian assistance.

The push for increased international humanitarian access to Syria came as Syrian opposition activists gave harrowing accounts of revenge attacks after Syrian forces retook Homs.

"Bassel Fouad, a Syrian activist who fled to Lebanon from Baba Amr two days ago, said a colleague there told him Friday that Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen known as shabiha were conducting house-to-house raids," Reuters reported. "His colleague said the gunmen lined 10 men up early Friday and shot them dead in front of a government cooperative that sells subsidized food." Foreign reporters, blocked from entering Syria, were not able to independently confirm the reports, and satellite phone and Skype access to residents of Homs were lost in the past days.

Two senior American diplomats, testifying on the Syrian crisis Thursday on Capitol Hill, said humanitarian access was the key priority right now for the international community. There was still no international consensus for more aggressive measures, such as a Libya-style international military intervention, they said, describing the situation as exceedingly complex.

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"Syria is a much bigger, more sophisticated, and more complicated country than Libya," President Obama told The Atlantic in an interview Friday. "The opposition is hugely splintered ... And so what we're trying to do ... is to try to come up with a series of strategies that can provide humanitarian relief. But they can also accelerate a transition to a peaceful and stable and representative Syrian government. If that happens, that will be a profound loss for Iran."

In the meantime, two wounded French journalists arrived safely in France on Friday after being smuggled out of Syria to Lebanon. Edith Bouvier, a reporter with France's Le Figaro, and photographer William Daniels were greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy upon arriving in France.

Another photographer wounded in Syria and evacuated to Lebanon told the BBC on Friday that Syria is a slaughterhouse.

"There are no targets in Baba Amr; there are no military targets," Paul Conroy told the BBC. "It's pure and systematic slaughter of a civilian population. The only reason those shells are going in are to eliminate the people and buildings of Baba Amr."

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