At least 100 killed in Syria as army bombards opposition strongholds


The death toll in Syria on Saturday soared to 100 as forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad continued the bombardment of several opposition-held areas across the country.

Shelling of the Baba Amr district of Homs resumed after an apparent pause to allow in relief teams, more than three weeks into a deadly assault on rebels in Syria’s third largest city.

Police also fired on a demonstration of some 4,000 people in Aleppo city’s Sayef al-Dawla district, at the funeral of a civilian killed on Friday.

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.

In Homs, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had been in talks to resume evacuations from Baba Amr where two wounded Western journalists are trapped along with the bodies of two others killed on Wednesday.

But the negotiations with the Syrian authorities and opposition groups ended in failure Saturday, the ICRC's Saleh Dabbakeh told AFP.

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.

Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances entered the besieged Homs district of Baba Amr on Friday and evacuated seven Syrians wounded in shelling by regime forces as well as 20 women and children.

But the ambulances did not evacuate two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross told AFP.

“Three ambulances entered Baba Amr and they have left. They evacuated so far seven wounded Syrian citizens,” Saleh Dabbakeh said.

The evacuation was organized by the ICRC along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and was the first time rescuers had entered the flashpoint Baba Amr neighborhood in 21 straight days of deadly bombardment.

The Red Crescent said on its Facebook page that “in addition to the seven wounded, it also evacuated 20 women and children” from Baba Amr.

American reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed on Wednesday when a rocket hit a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr, a rebel stronghold.

French reporter Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy suffered leg wounds in the same attack.

On Thursday Bouvier was seen in a video message appealing for medical evacuation.

“My leg is broken at the level of the femur, along its length and also horizontally. I need to be operated upon as soon as possible,” she said in the video shot by anti-regime activists.

Homs has been under siege and bombardment since February 4 with Baba Amr bearing the brunt of the onslaught.

Syria accused rebels in Baba Amr of refusing to hand over Bouvier and the bodies of the two killed Western journalists to rescuers, the official SANA news agency reported.

Diplomatic efforts were stepped up on Friday to evacuate the journalists and the bodies of their two colleagues, with the French, British and Polish working closely together, a Western official said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, in Tunis for an international “Friends of Syria” meeting on Friday, “solemnly” urged Syria to allow for the evacuation of the wounded journalists.

In Tunis, some 60 governments gathered for the inaugural meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group expressed “strong concern” about the humanitarian situation.

The group cited in particular “the lack of access to basic food, medicine and fuel” as well as “threats and acts of violence to medical staff, patients and facilities."