Syria Prevents Red Cross From Entering Embattled Homs District

International Red Cross president says it is 'unacceptable' that Syrians in need of emergency assistance still had not received any help, says hopes to enter Baba Amro in near future.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that Syrian authorities had prevented it from entering the Homs district of Baba Amro on Friday, where it had hoped to bring in aid and evacuate the sick and wounded.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC) were not allowed to enter the Baba Amro district of Homs today," ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement issued in Geneva.

Homs shelling - AFP - February 2012

"It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help. We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amro in the very near future. In addition, many families have fled Baba Amro, and we will help them as soon as we possibly can."

Carla Haddad, ICRC chief spokeswoman, told Reuters: "The Syrian authorities did not allow us to enter the neighborhood of Baba Amro."

She declined to give details on the sensitive negotiations.

Syrian authorities had given the independent agency a "green light" on Thursday to enter Baba Amro on Friday.

The ICRC convoy of 7 trucks carrying food and other aid supplies left Damascus early on Friday for Homs, where it met local volunteers and ambulances of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent prepared to treat and evacuate the sick and wounded.

A Syrian official declared the area of Baba Amro "cleansed" and the opposition spoke of a massacre by President Bashar Assad's forces.

The residential district became a symbol of resistance to Assad after government troops surrounded it with tanks and artillery and shelled it intensively for weeks, killing and wounding civilians cowering in its ruined buildings.

"We reiterate the appeal we made several days ago, for a daily two-hour halt in the fighting to allow humanitarian assistance," Kellenberger said. "The humanitarian situation was very serious then and it is worse now."

ICRC spokeswoman Haddad told Reuters: "We have positive signals, this is an ongoing process.