Red Cross rescue fails as Assad´s tanks roll back into Homs (INDEPENDENT UK) JUSTIN VELA THE TURKISH-SYRIAN BORDER 02/28/12)
IRNA-Israel Resource News Agency
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President hails victory in referendum on new constitution – but the
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
"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
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". (©independent.co.uk
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