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."

Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week