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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Syria: Troops shell Homs, 47 defected soldiers killed, two dead after suicide blast

As Syrian troops continued assault against the rebellious city of Homs, the Red Cross denied reports that it had entered the besieged city, while a report of about 47 executed defected soldiers by the regime emerged on Saturday.

Syrian troops shelled on Saturday several districts in Homs where a standoff continued between a Red Cross convoy and the government that has blocked the delivery of food, medical supplies and blankets to the thousands still stranded in the area.

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.

The shelling came amid a standoff between the government and the Red Cross, which denied that authorities have allowed it to enter Homs on Friday.

“No teams entered on Friday Baba Amr, and (authorities) have not allowed entry of aid,” ICRC Damascus spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh, told AFP.

“We are still in talks,” he said, shortly after a Damascus-based ICRC official told AFP that a team went into the neighborhood on Friday to assess the needs while negotiations were continuing with authorities to allow aid in.

Regime forces overran Baba Amr on Thursday after nearly a month of bombarding the rebel-held neighborhood of Syria’s third-largest city.

In related news, around 47 Syrian soldiers who attempted to defect were executed in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

On Thursday, one of Syria’s main opposition groups, the Syrian National Council (SNC) announced that it formed a military bureau to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who is made up of deserters from the Syrian security forces.

Blast in south, clashes in north

Meanwhile, Syria’s state-run news agency said a suicide bomber has detonated his car in a southern city, leaving at least two people killed.

SANA says the blast occurred in the heart of the city of Daraa on Saturday morning. The city is the birthplace of the nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least two people were killed and several others wounded in the explosion. The group says the blast occurred near a petrol station in an area known as Daraa al-Balad.

Opposition activists denied that the explosion was caused by a bomber but did not give an explanation for the reported attack.

And in the northern part of the country, the fight against anti-Syrian regime elements continued as the regime’s army launched an offensive early Saturday against rebels in the village of Ain al-Beida, not far from the border with Turkey, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.

It quoted witnesses as saying around 2,000 soldiers and 15 tanks were involved in the operation to seize control of the village only a few kilometers (miles) from Turkey.

The army overran the village and set fire to the houses, Anatolia said.

The agency said opposition fighters injured in the clashes had been taken to Turkey for treatment.

Residents in the Turkish village of Guvecci, just across the border in the southern province of Hatay, told AFP by telephone they had heard automatic gunfire and artillery at dawn.

Some 7,500 Syrians have fled to Turkey since the outbreak of anti-regime unrest almost one year ago, on March 15.

They are housed in camps in Hatay, where members of FSA are based.

Turkey, which shares a 910-kilometre (560-mile) border with Syria, broke its former alliance with Damascus over the regime's brutal crackdown on opposition protesters, which has left more than 7,500 people dead according to the United Nations.

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