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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Humanitarian Aid Stopped From Reaching Syrian Flashpoint Area

March 02, 2012

Edward Yeranian | Cairo

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has been stopped from bringing medical supplies and humanitarian aid to a battered district of the Syrian city of Homs. The aid delivery was planned after a tactical retreat by opposition forces on Thursday. The United Nations' human rights office says it received unconfirmed reports of 17 executions after government forces moved into the area.

Pan-Arab television channels showed hundreds of anti-government protesters in the streets of a Homs district Friday, denouncing the government's storming of the nearby Baba Amr area.

The United Nations and a rights group reported that Baba Amr residents were killed in reprisal after government forces moved into the the district following a retreat Thursday by rebel soldiers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that a convoy of seven trucks carrying aid was in Homs, ready to enter Baba Amr, but was stopped.

Syrian authorities had given ICRC permission on Thursday to take in aid. But opposition activists say the government is holding up the operation and the ICRC called the delay "unacceptable."

An opposition video showed what appeared to be a shell being fired into a crowd of protesters in the city of Rastan, north of Homs. Opposition videos and webcam images showed large demonstrations elsewhere in Syria. Protesters carried posters denouncing the government siege in Homs.

Syrian state television showed live videos from calm parts of the country, saying there were no protests in Syria. Government reports blamed Arab satellite channels for “trying to create strife by claiming there were demonstrations when there weren't.”

The French government announced that injured journalist Edith Bouvier, who was taken out of Homs by activists Thursday, was airlifted to France from Beirut. France also announced it will close its embassy in Syria, following the lead of the United States and Britain.

The bodies of American journalist Marie Colvin and French journalist Remi Ochlik, killed last week in shelling in Baba Amr, were handed over to the ICRC to be transported to Damascus.

Middle East scholar Joshua Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, said the fact that government forces had regained control of Baba Amr would only enlarge the opposition movement in Syria:

"There is going to be a temporary sense of victory by the Syrian government, but the opposition is gathering strength with every passing week," said Landis. "The entire Sunni world, Arab world, is getting organized to take down the Assad regime, which has defied it, defied countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the United States for decades, now. But, more importantly, the Sunnis within Syria, the average Syrian farmer, the small town clerk are ready and mobilizing to fight against this regime.”

Landis, who operates a website called Syria Comment, said that there is “no going back to the way Syria was before.” He says what started as a “naive and disorganized opposition in Homs” will become more cohesive nationally and more militarized.

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