Syrian troops resume shelling Homs
Car bomb rocks birthplace of anti-Assad uprising
Syrian forces renewed their bombardment Saturday of rebellious areas of Homs, activists said, as the Red Cross vowed to try again to reach thousands of people stranded in a district overrun by regime troops after a month-long siege.
Meanwhile, Syria's state-run news agency said a suicide car bomb exploded Saturday in a southern Syrian city of Daraa, known as the birthplace of the country's uprising, and casualties were reported.
The Red Cross said it had received permission from President Bashar Assad's government to enter Baba Amr. A convoy of seven trucks with 15 tons of humanitarian aid including food, medical supplies and blankets left Damascus on Friday, taking several hours in heavy snowfall to reach Homs.
But once they neared Baba Amr, the government prevented them from entering.
"We are still in negotiations to enter Baba Amr," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Saturday in Geneva.
The Syrians said they were not letting the Red Cross into Baba Amr because of safety concerns, including land mines, Hassan said, adding the organization had not been able to verify the danger. The government has not offered its explanation for revoking the permission.
"It's important that we get in today," Hassan said. "We are not about to give up."
"The depravity and reprehensible acts of the Assad regime continue to sink to new lows," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement released Saturday night. "Assad and his regime are blocking humanitarian aid from getting to the Syrians that need it most, while making life miserable for countless more." Canada is considering new measures to make it clear that Assad must go, Baird said.
"Change will happen. Syrians will have their day and Canada stands with them in their calls for a better, brighter future."
Journalists' bodies arrive in Damascus
The bodies of American-born correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed during shelling in Homs, have arrived in Damascus after being released by Syrian authorities. The bodies were to be taken to the French hospital in the Syrian capital ahead of repatriation to their countries.
Abu Hassan al-Homsi, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Khaldiyeh district of Homs, said he treated a dozen wounded.
"This has become routine, the mortars start falling early in the morning," he said. Several homes were damaged from the morning shelling, which he described as steady but intermittent. Most of those he treated were lightly wounded, al-Homsi added.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network said mortars slammed into Khaldiyeh, Bab Sbaa and Khader districts of the city early Saturday.
Humanitarian conditions in Baba Amr, a western neighborhood of Homs that was overrun by troops on Thursday, have been described as catastrophic, with extended power outages, shortages of food and water, and no medical care for the sick and wounded.
Syrian government forces took control of the neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood.
"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.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria to give humanitarian workers immediate access to people who desperately need aid.
"The images which we have seen in Syria are atrocious," said Ban. "It's totally unacceptable, intolerable. How, as a human being, can you bear this situation?"
String of suicide bombings
The SANA news agency said Saturday's suicide bombing occurred at a roundabout in the heart of Daraa in an area known as Daraa al-Balad, causing multiple casualties and damaging buildings and shops there.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least two people were killed and several others wounded in the explosion.
Syria has seen a string of suicide bombings, the last on Feb. 10, when twin suicide bombs struck security compounds in the government stronghold city of Aleppo, killing 28 people and bringing significant violence for the first time to the city.
The capital Damascus, another stronghold of President Bashar Assad, has seen three suicide bombings in the past two months.
The regime has touted the attacks as proof that it is being targeted by "terrorists." The opposition accuses forces loyal to the government of being behind the bombings to tarnish the uprising.
Saturday's bombing in Daraa marked the first time a suicide bombing struck an opposition stronghold. Daraa is the birthplace of the nearly year-old uprising against Assad. The revolt has killed more than 7,500 people, according to most recent UN estimates.