ICRC: no access yet to Baba Amr

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, March 2, 2012

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) was still awaiting permission to access Baba Amr, the Homsi neighborhood battered by weeks of intense conflict, its chief spokesperson said via Twitter on Friday.

The ICRC and its local affiliate, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), sent a convoy to Homs on Friday after Syrian authorities gave a green light for humanitarian aid to enter Baba Amr.

"A Joint ICRC and SARC [mission] left Damascus today to Homs. The convoy includes seven truckloads of assistance including food and other items," ICRC spokesperson Hicham Hassan said.

Hassan said poor weather conditions had held up the convoy.

"The snow is slowing down the convoy, but we hope to be in Homs within the hour," he said.

SARC volunteers and ambulances are already on the ground in Homs, Hassan said, but were still awaiting Syrian forces to grant them entry into Baba Amr.

"We hope to get into Baba Amr as soon as possible," Hassan told Al-Akhbar.

It was not yet clear how many people affected by the violence in Baba Amr the ICRC could evacuate.

ICRC's spokesperson in Damascus, Saleh Dabbakeh, told Al-Akhbar earlier in the week that evacuees were taken to the Al-Amine Hospital, roughly 400 meters from Baba Amr.

Baba Amr has been the scene of intense fighting in recent weeks as Syrian government forces sought to reassert control of the rebel-held stronghold.

The Free Syrian Army on Thursday announced it had "tactically withdrawn" from the neighborhood. Several journalists had been trapped in Baba Amr during the clashes, with two journalists, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, killed.

Syrian authorities said they had found the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik, who were buried in the area, and handed their bodies to the ICRC, Carla Haddad Mardini, the organization's chief spokesperson, confirmed.

The journalists were killed during a February 22 rocket attack on a makeshift media center in Baba Amr.

There was also a third body which a "reliable source" said was that of Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa. However a Spanish newspaper reported that he was safe and well.

"It is impossible," that he is dead, said Inaki Gil, deputy director of El Mundo.

"I spoke to him this morning and this afternoon. He is in Beirut."

The bodies were transferred to a Damascus hospital and they will be handed over to the Polish embassy, which is representing the United States, France, and Spain, in the presence of the International Red Cross, after Syria has carried out DNA tests on the remains, the ministry said.

"Syria offers its condolences to the families of the victims and hopes that foreign citizens will abstain from entering Syrian territory illegally and going into regions where there are armed terrorists," the ministry statement said.

The UN updated its death toll this week, revealing that over 7,500 people have died since the uprising began last March. The Syrian government maintains that at least 2,000 security personnel have been killed.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)


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