Syrian rebels backed away from a besieged neighborhood in the city of Homs on Thursday with weapons and ammunition running low, saying they were pulling out to spare some 4,000 people who insisted on staying on their homes as food, medicine and water grew scarce.
The Syrian government said it had regained control of the Baba Amr neighborhood, a former opposition stronghold. Syrian news reports said government forces were hunting down "terrorists" in the area.
The neighborhood had become the focal point in the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, bombarded for weeks by government forces, its name famous far beyond Homs.
The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have died in the conflict, part of the broader ring of "Arab Spring" protests that first erupted early last year. The U.N. human rights body recently condemned the regime for rampant abuses across Syria, including torture, killings and sexual violence.
Syrian authorities gave the International Committee of the Red Cross the green light to enter Baba Amr with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on Friday, allowing them to bring in food and medical aid and evacuate the wounded. The aid groups were able to enter Baba Amr only twice in the last week as violence raged.
But opposition activists said the government was continuing to shell the scarred neighborhood after the rebels pulled back, "with the intent of terrorizing civilians."
While the turmoil continued, the U.N. Security Council called on Syria to give Valerie Amos, the world body's humanitarian chief, “immediate and unhindered access," the Associated Press reported. Amos has complained that she has not been allowed to visit Syria despite "repeated requests" to meet with top officials.
Baba Amr has become a rallying cry in the uprising, which has raged for nearly a year. The video below, posted on YouTube by opposition activists, purports to show protesters chanting, "Baba Amr, we are with you until death!" at a Wednesday rally in Idlib.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: A compilation of amateur and Syrian opposition video purporting to show conditions in the embattled city of Homs. Credit: Associated Press