Red Cross rescue fails as Assad's tanks roll back into Homs

President hails victory in referendum on new constitution – but the onslaught continues

The Turkish-Syrian border

Syria's interior ministry announced yesterday that 89.4 per cent
of voters had approved a new government-proposed constitution in a
referendum held on Sunday that would limit the presidency of Bashar
al-Assad and impose multi-party elections. But at the same time as
the results were being announced, opposition activists reported a
fresh onslaught against Homs.

Despite the seemingly impressive result – there has been no independent verification – the government in Damascus conceded that 57.4 per cent of voters had bothered, or had been able, to cast their ballots. The result, if adopted, will allow President Assad to stay in power for another 16 years.

The referendum result was followed last night by news that the Red Cross had entered Homs but had failed to recover a number of injured journalists who have been trapped, short of medical supplies, for nearly a week. They include the Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy.

Three injured civilians were evacuated from the Baba Amr district in ambulances operated by the organisation's local affiliate, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. But the Red Cross later confirmed that neither the journalists nor the bodies of their dead counterparts, Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times and French photographer Rémi Ochlik, had been removed, adding that the reason was unknown.

Another violent day began in Syria even before the referendum results were announced. According to the London-based activist group Avaaz, troops loyal to the Assad regime had begun a major ground invasion of the Inasha'at neighbourhood of Homs in the early morning, moving in with tanks. Inasha'at is close to the opposition stronghold of Baba Amr and has already seen about 80 per cent of its population flee the fighting. At least 21 people were killed yesterday in Homs, according to activists.

"They are using all kinds of weapons to hit us," said Adnan Maree, 28, a lawyer speaking from Baba Amr. "In my neighbourhood, they are using shock bombs to collapse buildings. We are not seeking [foreign] governments' help. Now we are talking to the people of those countries."

An increasing number of activists are being vocally critical of the West for doing little to intervene in the crisis, which is quickly becoming a civil war. The European Union did move yesterday and imposed new sanctions on Syria, freezing the assets of the country's central bank, restricting trade in gold, diamonds and precious metals, introducing a ban on cargo flights into the EU, and blacklisting seven individuals close to Mr Assad.

As pressure against the regime increased, the Red Cross was able to gain access to the city of Hama. Food and other aid was delivered for 12,000 people. The city, where at least 10,000 people were killed when regime forces massacred members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, has been hard hit due to its reputation for dissent.

Yet key international support for the Assad regime remains. Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, lashed out at countries that were holding discussions to arm the Free Syrian Army, saying he would not support military action in Syria without United Nations support.

China also spoke out, after comments made by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that Russia and China's vetoing of the UN Security Council resolutions were "despicable".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before