AMMAN: Armed forces loyal to President Bashar Assad bombarded the Jobar residential neighborhood of Homs on Saturday where thousands of civilians from an area overrun by the army had taken refuge, an opposition activist organization said.
â€œIn an act of pure revenge, Assadâ€™s army has been firing mortar rounds and 500 mm machine guns since this morning at Jobar. We have no immediate reports of casualties because of the difficulty of communications,â€ the Syrian Network for Human Rights said in statement.
Jobar is adjacent to the district of Baba Amro in Homs, from where Free Syrian Army rebels pulled out this week after almost a month of army shelling. Activists reported mass executions by loyalist troops who subsequently entered the area.
Local activists in Homs also reported heavy machine gun fire from army road blocks in the neighborhoods of Al-Khalidiya and Al-Qusoor.
ICRC negotiating access to Homs
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday it was still negotiating with Syrian authorities who have denied its aid convoy access to the shattered Baba Amro district of Homs.
An ICRC convoy of seven trucks carrying food and other life-saving relief supplies, joined by Red Crescent ambulances to evacuate the sick and wounded, has been stalled in the city of Homs since arriving there on Friday.
â€œThe ICRC and Syrian Red Crescent are not yet in Baba Amro today (Saturday). We are still in negotiations with authorities in order to enter Baba Amro. It is important that we enter today,â€ ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger, in a statement issued on Friday after waiting all day for Syrian authorities to grant entry to the team, said the delay was â€œunacceptableâ€ as civilians had waited for weeks for emergency assistance.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he had received â€œgrisly reportsâ€ Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the battle-scarred city of Homs after rebel fighters had fled.
Wounded British photographer Paul Conroy, who escaped Homs earlier this week, said he had witnessed Syrian troops carrying out a massacre in the Baba Amro district, which had become a symbol of a year-long uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The ICRC is the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria, where the United Nations has been shut out.
The ICRC spokesman Hassan declined comment on Banâ€™s remarks, but said: â€œIt is precisely to have a clearer understanding of the real size of the humanitarian problem that we need to get in.â€
On Thursday, Syrian authorities gave the ICRC â€œpositive signalsâ€ regarding its public appeal of Feb. 21 for a daily two-hour humanitarian cease-fire across Syria, he said.
â€œIt is still important that we implement this initiative urgently,â€ he said. (KMW NEWS)Â