China raises pressure on Syria but Red Cross still denied access

Assad regime faces growing calls for an end to the crisis as civilians continue to suffer

Red Cross teams remained locked out of the devastated Baba Amr district in Homs last night, as China, while still opposing military intervention in the country, piled pressure on the Syrian regime to end the crisis.

With volunteers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) still denied access to Baba Amr three days after the Syrian government supposedly gave them a green light, the organisation's volunteers began handing out aid and medical supplies to civilians living around the neighbourhood. "We are very concerned about the people in Baba Amr," the ICRC's Damascus-based spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh said yesterday, after activists claimed the government's reticence stemmed from its fears that volunteers will discover evidence of war crimes.

Hundreds of civilians from the neighbourhood have reportedly been killed over the past month, as the Syrian government launched a day-by-day barrage of rockets and shells to root out rebel fighters who had seized control of the neighbourhood. In one of the coldest winters in recent memory, families were struggling to survive a constant hail of artillery fire without electricity, water or communications.

Journalists have also been caught in the violence, and last night the bodies of the veteran Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik, both of whom were killed in the bombardment of Baba Amr last month, arrived in Paris.

The American-born Ms Colvin's body was expected to be flown to the United States from France either today or tomorrow. When the Syrian military eventually seized control of Baba Amr on Thursday, activists claimed that soldiers killed dozens of civilians in a series of execution-style murders. The government of Bashar al-Assad has said its campaign was being waged against "terrorists" and armed groups.

Yesterday, there was a fresh diplomatic push to end the violence from China, a country that has so far steadfastly refused to endorse Western efforts to find a solution through the United Nations Security Council. A post on China's Foreign Ministry website called for an immediate end to the killings in Syria and suggested renewed efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and kick-start negotiations through the UN and Arab League. But the proposal also rejected outright any military intervention or attempts to topple the government. "We oppose anyone interfering in Syria's internal affairs under the pretext of 'humanitarian' issues," the post said. "China does not approve of armed interference or pushing for 'regime change' in Syria."

Beyond Homs there were further eruptions of violence across Syria yesterday. In Rastan, a town 12 miles north of Baba Amr which has become a bolthole for defected soldiers, heavy shelling was reported from government positions, while gun battles raged in the northern town of Jebel al-Zawiya.

Baathist artillery gunners also launched shells into the border town of Qusair, south of Homs, in an attack that sent hundreds of civilians fleeing towards neighbouring Lebanon.

"The people said they were sat at home and suddenly the shelling started and they fled," Afif Diab told the Reuters news agency.

"They said it was tank shelling and gunfire."

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities