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Syria Allows Red Cross Access to Devastated Neighborhood
March 4, 2012

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After days of delays, Red Cross workers have been allowed access to a particularly hard-hit neighborhood in Homs, Syria's third-largest city and a hotbed of opposition to the government and activities of President Bashar al-Assad.

Government troops seized the neighborhood, Baba Amr, last week, after a number of days of bombardment and then refused to admit Red Cross teams carrying badly needed food, water, and blankets. The city of 1 million is largely without electricity and communication, after a week-long series of bombardments and shootings. Many residents are starving and freezing in winter temperatures.

Homs has been a target of government military action for a few months now, after opposition leaders staged large anti-government protests in the city. Hundreds of Homs residents have died in the bombardments. Overall, the United Nations says, more than 7,500 people have died since public action against Assad begin in March 2011. 

Since that time, many Syrian soldiers have joined the opposition and taken up arms against the government. Armed struggles between the two sides have become more frequent, in various parts of the country. Homs is by no means the only city to be the target of military action.

The amount of outside pressure on Assad is increasing, with the European Union agreeing to classify Syrian troops' actions as war crimes, for which Assad would be held responsible if he were to face an United Nations tribunal similar to one faced by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed those feelings, reiterating her government's call for Assad to step aside as president.

China, long a Syrian ally and most recently one of two nations again vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn the violence in Syria,  offered a proposal of an immediate cease-fire so that both sides can pursue peace talks. The Chinese government was quick to point out, however, that it did not support intervention from other countries.


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