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Red Cross convoy reaches besieged Syrian city

March 2, 2012 |  5:14 am
A supply convoy from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was reported en route Friday to the Syrian city of Homs, carrying humanitarian aid for the battered former rebel enclave of Baba Amr

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- A supply convoy from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was reported en route Friday to the Syrian city of Homs, carrying humanitarian aid for the battered former rebel enclave of Baba Amr.

The Syrian government said its troops have overrun the former opposition stronghold, where thousands of civilians were said to be stranded without water, food, electricity or proper medical care.

"Seven truckloads of mainly food and other essential items are on their way ... they left Damascus," Red Cross spokeswoman Carla Haddad Mardini said via telephone from Geneva. "They should get to Homs in the coming hour. ...  This is a first step forward."

But recent days have seen snow falling in the area of Homs, and bad weather conditions are slowing the pace of the convoy, Mardini said. Red Crescent teams and ambulances were waiting for the convoy in Homs, she said.

[Updated, 7:49 a.m., March 2: The Associated Press later reported that the supply convoy had reached Homs but had not yet gained access to Baba Amr.]

Mardini suggested there had been some progress on negotiations about a daily humanitarian cease-fire that the Red Cross has been seeking.

"There have been some positive signs from the Syrian authorities," she said.

On Thursday, government troops pushed out rebels who had been holed up in Baba Amr. The opposition Syrian National Council warned of a "massacre" as opposition fighters withdrew from the area.

The official Syrian news agency said the army "cleansed" the district "from the foreign-backed armed groups of terrorists." The rebels deny they are terrorists, saying they are freedom fighters seeking to oust an authoritarian regime.

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-- Alexandra Sandels

Photo: Turkish and Syrian protesters shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad at a demonstration after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Tolga Bozoglu / EPA

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