Syrians trapped in Homs say world is failing them

Syrians trapped in Homs say world is failing them

Beirut: Syrian activists deplored the outcome of an international “Friends of Syria" conference, saying on Saturday that the world had abandoned them to be killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

“Negotiations have resumed with Syrian authorities and the opposition in order to continue evacuating all persons in need of help," said Hicham Hassan, spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

“We hope to be able to carry out many more life-saving operations," he said. “We are hopeful the ICRC will also enter Baba Amro today."

But activists in Homs were despondent about Friday’s Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis and suspicious of the ICRC’s efforts because they involved the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, viewed as compromised by its links with the government.

“We refuse to work with the local Red Crescent," said Nadir al-Husseini. “The government’s demand to use the Red Crescent is a dirty trick because this group is not independent, it is under the control of the regime. We have no trust in them."

The ICRC said the Syrian Red Crescent had evacuated a total of 27 women and children from Baba Amro on Friday.

Hundreds Of Wounded

Husseini described desperate conditions in Baba Amro, where efforts to extract three Western journalists and the bodies of two others killed there on Wednesday have yet to succeed.

“It would be good if they (the ICRC) could bring in some aid. But even if they brought us some medical supplies how much would it really help? We have hundreds of wounded people crammed into houses all around the neighbourhood," Husseini said.

“People are dying from lack of blood because we just don’t have the capability of treating everyone. I don’t think any amount they could bring in would really help."

The Tunis conference of Western, Arab and other countries was intended to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Assad to end an almost year-long crackdown on opponents of his 11-year rule in which thousands of Syrians have been killed.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned the Syrian leader and his allies at home and abroad that they would be held to account for the bloodshed and the humanitarian “catastrophe".

Referring to Russia and China, which twice vetoed United Nations Security Council measures against Syria, she said: “They are setting themselves not only against the Syrian people but also the entire Arab awakening."

But Omar, another activist in Homs, dismissed the gathering as a failure. “It was lawyer talk, not war talk. The message is ‘We’re with you on paper but not more than that´," he said.

A doctor in the rebellious town of Zabadani, who asked not to be named, said: “I love the people of all countries but it’s clear none of them are very concerned about us or our crisis.

“I’m sorry to be so depressing, but I’m really frightened that after all these efforts we will still end up like Hama in 1982, killed while the world waits and watches."

Assad’s father crushed an armed Islamist uprising in Hama 30 years ago, killing many thousands of civilians and razing parts of the city with tanks and artillery in a three-week assault.

“I can tell you that the people of Zabadani resent what happened in Tunis," the doctor said. “We need them to arm the revolution. I don’t understand what they are waiting for. Do they need to see half the people of Syria finished off first?"

Clear Message

US President Barack Obama said on Friday it was time to stop the killing of Syrians by their own government.

“All of us seeing the terrible pictures coming out of Syria and Homs recently recognise it is absolutely imperative for the international community to rally in sending a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition."

Such talk fails to impress in Baba Amro where hundreds of civilians have been killed in the last three weeks.

“They (world leaders) are still giving opportunities to this man who is killing us and has already killed thousands of people," said activist Husseini in the battered district.

“I’ve completely lost faith in everyone but God. But in spite of that, I know we will continue this uprising. We’ll die trying before we give up," he said.

“The shelling is just like it was yesterday. We have had 22 days of this. The women and children are all hiding in basements," Husseini said.

“No one would dare try to flee the neighbourhood, that is instant death. You’d have to get past snipers and soldiers. Then there is a trench that surrounds our neighbourhood and a few others. Then you have to go past more troops."

Assad’s forces killed 103 people in Syria on Friday, the activist group Local Coordination Committees said. Most were civilians, including 14 children and one woman, it said.

Diplomatic moves are hamstrung because there is little appetite for military intervention in Syria and because of Russian and Chinese opposition to Security Council action.

Beijing and Moscow refused to attend the meeting in Tunisia.

Some Gulf Arab delegates at the conference called for an international peacekeeping force in Syria. The Saudi foreign minister said arming Syrian rebels was an “excellent idea".