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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?