Assad blocks Red Cross aid mission to Homs

Regime resists Red Cross hopes for Homs mercy mission

After a merciless, month-long bombing campaign that has ravaged Homs, Bashar al-Assad's regime stood in the way of the Red Cross last night as it attempted to bring aid to the now fallen and devastated rebel district of Baba Amr.

The humanitarian organisation was blocked from moving in as reports emerged that dozens of people had been killed in execution-style murders following the retreat of rebel fighters from the area. Meanwhile, Mr Assad's forces opened another deadly front against anti-government protesters yesterday, bombing Rastan, a rebel-held town 12 miles north of Homs.

David Cameron condemned what he described as the "medieval butchery" afoot in Syria, where the uprising against Mr Assad's rule has turned increasingly bloody.

On Thursday, the Syrian regime granted permission to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) for its volunteers to enter Baba Amr. But ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger said yesterday that, in a reversal, aid workers from his organisation had been denied access to the district, describing the action as "unacceptable". Chillingly, one activist who spoke to The Independent by phone said the Syrian government was worried about what the Red Cross might find when it entered the neighbourhood, which has been pulverised by four weeks of intense shelling and rocket fire. "The regime doesn't want the world to see what has happened," said the man, who was speaking from a district adjacent to Baba Amr and who said his name was Abu Abdu.

Over in Rastan, at least 12 people were blown up yesterday by a rocket attack. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the rocket crashed into a rally as hundreds of civilians turned out for a demonstration following midday Friday prayers. A film uploaded on to YouTube apparently revealed the gruesome aftermath of the explosion, with severed heads lying on the ground and walls splattered in blood and body parts.

The rally had been one of a series of nationwide demonstrations from activists calling for help in arming the Free Syrian Army, whose troops were forced to retreat from Baba Amr this week. Yesterday, there were reports that dozens of civilians in the district had been massacred by advancing regime gunmen, who took control of the neighbourhood after rebel troops abandoned the area on Thursday.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights said it had received reports of a "particularly grisly set of summary executions" involving 17 people. The killings, which are yet to be confirmed, reportedly happened after government troops and loyalist militias entered the shell-blitzed district.

According to the Homs activist who spoke to The Independent by phone yesterday, the killings were carried out by shabiha, the pro-Assad paramilitaries recruited from the President's Alawite sect. "They were slaughtered like sheep," said Abu Abdu, who lives in the Al-Hakura neighbourhood next to Baba Amr and claimed to have spoken to a witness who saw it happen. "He told me it happened on Thursday night. There were shabiha. He saw them cutting the throats of the civilians. This man who saw it happen is now with a doctor. He is shaking and doesn't know where he is."

Another activist from Homs repeated the allegation that 17 people had been executed on Thursday night. The activist, who said his name was Abu Emad, said five of those killed were from the same family. He claimed that the murders had taken place near a graveyard in the area, close to a supermarket.

With the violence in Syria continuing unabated, Prime Minister David Cameron indicated that President Assad could face an international tribunal. "We should do more to make sure that those who are responsible for atrocities are held to account," Mr Cameron said at a summit of EU leaders yesterday, "We need to document their crimes. It needs to be written down. We need to make sure that the evidence is there."

Mr Cameron's call was supported by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose government yesterday followed the UK in announcing the closure of its embassy in Syria.

The Syrian army's success in throttling the life out of Baba Amr – a district which for months one of the main strongholds of defected soldiers battling against the regime – has led to fears that the year-long uprising against President Assad could be in danger of fizzling out.

Taleb Ibrahim, a Syria analyst with close links to Damascus, told the Associated Press news agency that this week's advances by the Government marked "the beginning of Syria's final victory over the Qatari, Saudi, French, American and Zionist conspiracy". But yesterday there were more demonstrations across Syria. According to the Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of activists that works to publicise the uprising, security forces attacked protesters rallying in Damascus while drivers in the surrounding suburbs were stopped at numerous checkpoints.

"The only way for people to protect themselves is through the Free Syrian Army," said Radwan Ziadeh, a leading member of the opposition Syrian National Council. "The international community has left Syrians to die alone. There is no other way forward now apart from arming the opposition."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick