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Evacuation effort underway in Homs, Syria

February 24, 2012 | 12:51 pm

REPORTING FROM BEIRUT-- A joint mission of the international Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has arrived in the battered Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, where opposition activists say weeks of shelling have killed scores of people.

The two aid groups arrived in Baba Amr on Friday afternoon and "are continuing to negotiate with the Syrian authorities and the opposition in an attempt to evacuate all persons in need of help, with no exceptions,” said Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesman in Damascus for the International Committee of the Red Cross. “They have enough ambulances to take care of what is needed.”

Some later reports indicated that the aid groups had begun evacuating victims from the stricken city, which has been a focal point of armed rebellion against the government of President Bashar Assad. Seven people had been evacuated from Homs, the Associated Press reported.

Homs is only 20 miles or so from Lebanon and there has been speculation that some wounded may be taken there.

Among those seeking to be evacuated were a pair of Western journalists: Edith Bouvier, a reporter working for France’s Le Figaro newspaper, and Paul Conroy, a photographer on assignment for the Sunday Times of London. Both suffered leg injuries in shelling Wednesday and have appealed for help via Internet videos.

The same shelling killed two other Western journalists, Marie Colvin, 56, a U.S.-born reporter for the Sunday Times, and Remi Ochlik, 28, a French freelance photographer.

Diplomats and news executives have been trying to devise a plan to extract the bodies from the war-torn city. But Syrian troops are said to surround the Baba Amr district, a stronghold of the opposition.

At least two other European journalists remained in Homs and were reported uninjured in the shelling.

Opposition activists have said there are scores of wounded in Homs who are not receiving adequate care.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders charges that Syria has persecuted doctors and tortured patients. Arab doctors are sitting in at the border between Jordan and Syria, demanding that wounded Syrians be allowed medical care, the Associated Press reported.

The Red Cross has requested daily two-hour cease-fires in Syria in a bid to help provide medical aid and evacuate the wounded and sick. The Syrian government has not responded to the request.


Red Cross seeks daily 'humanitarian pause' in Syria fighting

Syria report: Patients injured in protests and doctors persecuted

New pressure expected for Syrian cease-fire and humanitarian aid

-- Alexandra Sandels and Patrick J. McDonnell

Caption: Anti-Syrian regime protesters shout slogans against President Bashar Assad during a demonstration in Beirut on Friday. Credit: Hussein Malla / Associated Press