Entries in Homs (10)


U.N. Security Council Approves Resolution to Increase Observers

Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution to increase the number of U.N. observers in Syria to 300 for three months, the BBC reports.

A small team of UN observers is currently in Syria to monitor the delicate ceasefire between government and opposition forces. They visited the city of Homs for the first time on Saturday, during a break in hostilities in the opposition stronghold that has been under attack by the military, the BBC says. Opposition fighters said that tanks were temporarily hidden while observers were in town and that attacks would likely begin again.

A video posted online, however, showed U.N. monitors being surrounded by residents in Homs as gunfire breaks out, and it was unclear who is responsible for firing, according to the BBC

The U.N. has not commented on the incident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Red Cross Convoy Denied Access to Baba Amr District of Homs

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Red Cross convoy that planned to deliver aid and perform evacuations was denied access by Syrian authorities to the bombed-out enclave of Baba Amr in Homs on Friday.

“Despite yesterday's green light for ICRC & Red Crescent to enter Baba Amr, we've not been granted access to evacuate and provide assistance,” the Red Cross said Friday.

Only a few thousand of Baba Amr’s 100,000 residents remain behind, BBC News reported.

Dozens were reported killed in Homs on Friday alone. The United Nations estimates 7,500 people have died in nearly a year of anti-government protests and subsequent crack downs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Rebel Stronghold Falls

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(HOMS, Syria) -- The Syrian army's siege of Homs has ended after rebel fighters slipped away, according to residents of the city reached by ABC News by phone.

Rebels fighting President Bashar al Assad's forces say they have pulled out of the rebel stronghold of Bab Amr, and a government official says the Syrian army now has control in the area.

The Bab Amr district had endured nearly four weeks of shelling by tanks and artillery, as well as attacks from snipers, as part of the regime's campaign to crush opposition enclaves across the country. Hundreds of civilians are reported to have died in the attacks in Bab Amr alone, and there's growing concern about the humanitarian situation, as well as fears of reprisals by government troops.

The rebel group known as the Free Syrian Army announced what it described as a tactical retreat in a statement released Thursday.

"We have decided to strategically withdraw for the sake of the civilians remaining inside the neighborhood. The humanitarian situation is at its worst, as there is no food whatsoever, no medicines, no water and no electricity."

A Homs resident and political activist identified only by the name Dana told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour every home is equipped with a tank of reserve water, but those supplies are quickly running out. Many residents are resorting to melting snow to drink.

Activist Abo Emad was in Bab Amr until Thursday morning. "After we left the neighborhood the regime army entered. And it killed a lot of people, the soldiers. There were 11 people slaughtered at the hands of the regime army. Slaughtered like sheeps, by knives," he told ABC News.

Images broadcast by state television have shown images of a devastated city.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Red Crescent have been told by the Syrian authorities that they will be allowed to enter Bab Amr on Friday.

Two French journalists trapped by the fighting were safely evacuated to Lebanon Thursday, according to their newspaper, Le Figaro. Edith Bouvier and William Daniels were injured in the same shelling in Homs that killed fellow journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

Rebels fighters have promised to fight on. "We promise you, the people of Syria, Bab Amr will remain the eye and heart of this revolution until we gain full victory. Whatever the price we have to pay and whatever we have to give up...we are returning stronger, God willing," the Free Syrian Army said Thursday.

Syria's main opposition group has formed a central military command to help coordinate its resistance to the regime. Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council, told a news conference in Paris, "The revolution started peacefully and kept up its peaceful nature for months, but the reality today is different…we want to control the use of weapons so that there won't be a civil war."

The United Nations Security Council in New York has again expressed its disappointment that U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has not been allowed to visit Syria by the Assad regime. In a rare unanimous statement, the members of the council called for humanitarian personnel to be given full access to those in need of aid.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria: Grip Tightens on Homs’ Baba Amr District

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The relentless shelling and bombardment of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, was as fierce Wednesday as it has been for the past three weeks.

Alex Renton, from the activist organization Avaaz, which has established a network of activists and civilian journalists on the ground in Syria, told ABC News that there had been fighting “on all sides of Baba Amr,” a section of Homs the Syrian military is trying to recapture, “but not yet inside.” Renton described the shelling as “unprecedented.”

Communications and power have reportedly been cut since Tuesday.

Homs is under fire from heavy artillery, rockets and tanks, and the noose is tightening, particularly around the Homs district of Baba Amr. An unnamed security official told AFP that “the army has started combing the area building by building and house by house. Now the troops are searching every basement and tunnel for arms and terrorists,” which is what the Syrian government has said it’s doing since the uprising began last March — fighting against  “armed gangs” and “terrorists.”

One Syrian activist told the BBC that there were about 400 Free Syrian Army rebel fighters in Baba Amr who “will fight to the end.” At least 100,000 residents are trapped in Baba Amr, where American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed last week in an attack on a makeshift media center. French reporters Edith Bouvier and William Daniel remain.

The regime’s bloody crackdown continues a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate hearing that Assad could be considered a war criminal.

According to the United Nations, the death toll has now reached 7,500, a number disputed by Syrian activists, who claimed that more than 8,000 Syrians have been killed in the violence that has spread to several pockets of the country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


World’s Biggest Mortars ‘Weapon of Choice’ Against Homs?

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- For almost three weeks, Syria’s central city of Homs has been pounded by shelling from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving hundreds dead, according to opposition activists. Judging from a video clip posted online, one weapons analyst says Assad’s forces are using the biggest mortars in the world.

The video was first flagged in the Christian Science Monitor, which was told by a Human Rights Watch official that the regime forces are using the Russian-made 240mm “Tulip.” In the clip, two men are standing in rubble holding up the fanned tails of the exploded ordnance.

Peter Falstead of Jane’s Defence Weekly says the tail fins look, “very much like the tail fins from SM-240,” also known as the “Tulip Tree” developed by the Soviets in the 1970s. Today it is the largest mortar system used by any military in the world, and the Syrian army is believed to have up to 10 in service.

“If you wanted to strike at rebel-held positions in a built-up area to which you had no line of sight, and you had no regard whatsoever for the killing of innocent civilians, then I guess the SM-240 would be a weapon of choice,” Falstead told ABC News.

Few of the self-propelled SM-240s -- also known as the M-1975 -- remain in service, Jane’s says, due to its short range and slow firing (around one shell per minute). All-told, the system weighs 60,000 pounds, its range is between 2,600 and 5,900 feet, and it can fire shells weighing between 300 and 500 pounds.

By comparison, Falstead says the largest mortars used by the U.S. Army are 120mm, noting that they do have howitzers of a larger caliber.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria

Dave M. Benett/Getty Images(PARIS) -- A U.S. and a French journalist were killed in the central Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, the 19th day of intense shelling by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad bent on quashing a growing opposition.

The deaths of American Marie Colvin and Frechman Remi Ochlik were confirmed by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.  They come less than a week after New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid died in northern Syria from an apparent asthma attack and a day after well-known Syrian opposition journalist Rami al-Sayed died in Homs.

A Long Island native, Colvin wrote for the British Sunday Times.  Like Shadid, she was considered one of the best foreign correspondents in the world, covering global conflicts for decades.  Ochlik was a freelance photographer who recently won a 2012 World Press Photo prize for a photo from the Libyan revolution.

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In a statement, the editor of the Sunday Times called Colvin an "extraordinary figure."

"She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice," John Witherow wrote.  "Above all, as we saw in her powerful report last weekend, her thoughts were with the victims of violence."

Colvin and Ochlik were in a house in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, the district hit hardest by what residents have described as almost three weeks of relentless shelling that has left hundreds dead.  Video posted to YouTube purported to show their bodies in a house destroyed by tank shelling.

Activists say 10 Syrians were also killed and three other journalists were injured, including Colvin's photographer Paul Conroy, who the Times believes is "not too seriously hurt."

Colvin filed a report for the BBC on Tuesday, saying Baba Amr and its residents are besieged.

"It's absolutely sickening," she said. "The Syrians will not let them out, and are shelling all the civilian areas.  There's just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into civilian areas of this city.  It is just unrelenting."

Colvin lost an eye from a shrapnel wound in Sri Lanka in 2001, an injury that she said "is worth it" in a 2010 speech on the dangers of conflict reporting.

"Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death...and trying to bear witness," she said at a memorial for fallen journalists.  Someone has to go there and see what is happening.  You can't get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria: UN Warns of Civil War as Heavy Shelling Resumes in Homs

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(HOMS, Syria) -- After a relatively quiet weekend that saw nearly 50 people killed, heavy shelling resumed Tuesday morning in the neighborhood of Bab Amr in the Syrian city of Homs.

Tuesday marks the 10th day of the Syrian Army’s assault on Homs, and activists tell ABC News that over 500 people have been killed since Feb. 4.

The livestream over Bab Amr shows a constant stream of shelling and gunfire, and there are unconfirmed reports that several people have died in the early attacks.  A video posted on YouTube shows flames shooting into the air after an apparent explosion.

“God is great,” screams the man filming.  “Look at the explosions in Bab Amr, the city’s houses are on fire.”

Another video reportedly shows heavy artillery and gunfire raining down on the Bab Amr neighborhood.

Tuesday’s renewed assault comes one day after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned that the U.N. Security Council’s failure to take action has only strengthened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian government to plan an all out assault in an effort to crush resistance with overwhelming force… I am particularly appalled by the ongoing violence in Homs,” Pillay told the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.

Pillay said that in addition to the tens of thousands reported missing and detained inside the country, the conflict has spilled over Syria’s borders.  The U.N. estimates that over 70,000 people have been internally displaced and at least 25,000 people have fled, seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

“The breadth and patterns of attacks by military and security forces on civilians, and the widespread destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure indicate approval or complicity by authorities at the highest level,” Pillay added.

Analysts say the conflict is gravitating towards full blown civil war, with no sign of Assad letting up.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian City Shelled for Fifth Straight Day

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Artillery and tanks pummeled the Syrian city of Homs for the fifth straight day Wednesday and activists told ABC News that at least 50 people were killed.

Wednesday has been the heaviest day of shelling since the most recent assault began on Feb. 3; at least 150 people are believed to have died in the last 48 hours.

Tanks rolled into the city’s Bab Amr neighborhood before dawn and a live stream from Bab Amr showed a constant barrage of heavy shelling and gunfire. As explosions interrupted morning prayers, a rainbow appeared over the city. After several minutes of constant gunfire, the muezzin went quiet momentarily and chants of “Allahu Akbar” -- "God is Great" in Arabic -- filled the silence before the voice over the mosque’s loud speaker resumed the call to prayer.

Activists say the roads into Homs are blocked, allowing no one in and no one out. Tanks were seen rolling through empty city streets, making it nearly impossible for residents to leave their homes.

The BBC’s Paul Wood spoke with journalists in Homs who said “they simply cannot move.” Wood reports that people in Homs are “absolutely terrified of a ground assault” by the Syrian Army that they fear could come any day.

Wednesday’s violence comes as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s condemnation of, “violence from whichever side it comes.” On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, saying afterwards Assad is “completely committed” to ending the violence.

Also on Tuesday, Gulf Arab states announced they would recall their envoys from Damascus and expel their Syrian ambassadors. This comes after the U.S. shuttered its embassy in Syria on Monday. The European Union said it will impose harsher sanctions on the regime.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US State Dept. Issues Stern Warning to Syrian Regime

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials released a statement Tuesday strongly condemning the violent crackdown on protesters in Syria.

The statement, from State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, details the escalating violence in Homs, Daraa, and other cities by the Syrian military, which U.S. officials allege has resulted in the deaths of dozens, arrests of thousands, and beatings of peaceful protesters.

"In keeping with the Arab League agreement, we expect that Arab League monitors will be able to deploy and move freely within Homs and other Syrian cities as protesters peacefully gather in reaction to the regime’s excessive violence," Toner said in the statement. "The monitors should have unfettered access to protesters and to areas most severely affected by the regime's crackdown. They bear a heavy responsibility in trying to protect Syrian civilians from the depredations of a murderous regime."

Calling the Syrian military's actions "repressive," Toner issued a warning to President Bashar al-Assad: "If the Syrian regime continues to resist and disregard Arab League efforts, the international community will consider other means to protect Syrian civilians."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Syrian Protests Flare Up Following Russian Resolution

Sasha Mordovets/​Getty Images(HOMS, Syria) -- Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the city of Homs, Syria, on Friday in protest of the al-Assad regime.

The protests Friday have so far left at least a dozen people dead, according to reports. There were also violent clashes with police in Hama, Deraa, and Deir al-Zour.

The al-Assad regime has a new source of anxiety after Russia proposed a new Security Council resolution. Thursday's announcement from Russia's United Nations ambassador called for an end to the violence in Syria. Russia has previously opposed resolutions against the Syrian conflict.

The United Nations announced earlier this week that Syrian authorities were responsible for the deaths of over 5,000 people since the protests began last March.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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