Opposition seeks help as Syrian forces pound Homs |
Gulf Times - 18 June, 2012
Syria's opposition issued a cry for help yesterday as regime forces pounded rebel bastions in Homs province and activists warned that hundreds of civilians were trapped with little food or water.
The opposition Syrian National Council, meeting in Istanbul, also demanded the deployment of armed peacekeepers a day after the chief of a UN observers mission said he was suspending operations because of the relentless bloodshed.
The mission chief, General Robert Mood, meanwhile, urged the warring parties to “allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions and ensure their safety”.
“I call on the parties to take immediate action to ease the pain of Syrians trapped in the violence and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) stands ready to monitor their release, once the decision is taken,” he said.
Violence cost at least another 37 lives yesterday, taking the overall weekend death toll across the country to 108, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Regime forces pounded rebel areas of the Old City of Homs and outlying towns, including Rastan and Talbisseh, in a bid to crush armed insurgents, the watchdog said, with deadly violence also reported in other parts of Syria.
A civilian was killed in the Homs city rebel bastion of Khalidiyeh, which was “being shelled and shot at by regime forces” while six others were killed in assaults on Rastan and Talbisseh, the Observatory said.
The situation in Rastan was also dire and most residents had fled to neighbouring villages, anti-regime activist Nidal al-Hakim said via Skype.
Many people were “critically” wounded and there is a shortage of medication, while authorities have cut off electrical supplies and water from the besieged city, said Hakim.
“We couldn’t bury our martyrs in the cemetery because... it is targeted by Assad’s forces,” he added.
Abu Bilal, another activist speaking from the Old City of Homs, said the regime assault on several parts of the central city was “suffocating”.
“They are shelling us all the time. There’s very little food and water, and we’re running out of medication.”
If regime forces enter the besieged city hundreds of people trapped inside “will be massacred”, he said, echoing opposition warnings.
The Observatory has said that more than 1,000 families were stuck in the area, with dozens injured. Abu Bilal said many would die if they did not receive medical treatment.
SNC chief Abdel Basset Sayda accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of trying to commit new “atrocities” in Homs and Rastan.
“The country is under a violent attack, especially Homs,” Sayda told journalists in Istanbul.
SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said the situation in Homs city was growing increasingly desperate, citing food and water shortages.
Towns, including Rastan, “are living through tragic hours and days. We are calling for immediate humanitarian intervention in favour of the people of Syria”, she said.
Earlier the SNC issued a statement urging the UN to pressure Assad’s regime using Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows measures to be imposed on a country under penalty of sanctions or force.
The opposition specifically demanded that observers tasked with monitoring a UN-backed ceasefire - that has been flouted daily since going into effect on April 12 - be armed.
A YouTube video uploaded yesterday by activists showed clouds of black and grey smoke rising over buildings in the Old City of Homs.
The thump of shelling and gunfire ripped through the silence of what appeared to be a ghost town.
Another video showed widespread destruction in the Homs district of Jourat Al Shiah.