Developing

Syrians Trapped In Homs As Shelling Continues

The Red Cross is to resume negotiations for further evacuations from Homs, after they failed to gain a second day of access to the besieged Syrian city.

The humanitarian group's rescue teams were allowed into the city's Babr Amr district late on Friday, but were only able to take 27 people to safety.

The Syrian Red Crescent was able to carry out further evacuations elsewhere in the country on Saturday, including in other neighborhoods of Homs, but the Red Cross said its negotiations to get access to Baba Amr failed.

Reports from inside Homs say dozens more remain injured in homes or treatment centres after three weeks of intense shelling.

"We continue our negotiations, hoping that tomorrow (Sunday) we will able to enter Baba Amr to carry out our life-saving operations," Red Cross spokesman Hisham Hassan said.

Regime forces killed at least 41 civilians in Syria on Saturday, as they shelled a rebel stronghold for the 22nd straight day and opened fire in Hama and Aleppo, where thousands were rallying, monitors said.

The Red Cross had been hoping to evacuate more people in Homs after Syrian authorities allowed them into the city for the first time since the violence began.

They managed to safely move seven women and children to a hospital in another part of the city, Red Cross chief spokeswoman Carla Haddad said.

A further 20 uninjured women and children were later evacuated and taken to "a safe area", Ms Haddad said. Foreign journalists trapped in the area were not among them.

Ms Haddad said: "It's a first step forward. The priority now is evacuating the seriously wounded or sick."

Meanwhile, Western and Arab powers meeting in Tunis on Friday mounted the biggest diplomatic push in weeks to end President Bashar al Assad 's 11-month-old crackdown on the opposition, but failed to agree on any concrete action against the regime.

At an international conference of the Friends of Syria group of nations, up to 70 delegates gathered to try to find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria.

The world leaders called on Mr Assad to stop the killing of civilians and allow emergency aid into the country.

But the international efforts to resolve the crisis were criticised by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who want Arab peacekeepers to enter Syria in order to enforce a ceasefire.

Western powers, including Britain and the US, favour a diplomatic approach to put more pressure on the Assad regime, including more economic sanctions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slated Russia and China as "despicable" for opposing UN action on Syria.

The two nations were not in attendance at the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, and earlier this month both voted against a UN resolution condemning the violence.

Speaking after the conference, Mrs Clinton said: "It's quite distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using their veto while people are being murdered - women, children, brave young men - houses are being destroyed.

"It is just despicable and I ask: whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people."

While Moscow has backed calls for a ceasefire, it has criticised other Western countries for being "one-sided" in its approach.

However, there does appear to be evidence of disagreement over what exactly should be done to stop the killing of Syria's civilians.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia used the Tunis conference to call for an Arab force to impose peace.

Later in the day, the Saudi delegation quit the talks over what they called a lack of action, while the Saudi foreign minister even suggested that arming Syria's opposition fighters was an "excellent idea".

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was important for Russia and China to no longer oppose the international community - and even suggested Beijing was reviewing its stance.

"I haven't seen that shift in Russia yet," he said. "I think the Chinese government is constantly assessing the position.

"So I hope... immediately they will change their position, but if not that, then they will steadily do so over time."

Mr Hague also said Britain would recognise the Syrian opposition as a "legitimate representative" of the people, and called the government "a criminal regime".

It is believed more than 7,000 people have now died in the uprisings against Mr Assad.

The draft conclusion of the meeting demanded that the Syrian authorities facilitate the delivery of emergency aid to areas under siege - including Homs, Deraa and Zabadani.

Hosting the summit, Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki told Sky News the world can no longer stand by and "watch the massacre" in Syria.

But the Tunisian leader ruled out a military solution, warning that foreign military intervention or arming the opposition could only lead to an escalation of violence.

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options