February 22, 2012 (Aljazeera and Agencies)
February 22, 2012 (Aljazeera and Agencies)
Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, activists say, as shelling of a district of the Syrian city continued amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis.
Omar Shakir, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK’sSunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday.
French government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse confirmed the names of the slain reporters.
Nine people were reportedly killed in addition to the journalists. Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy was said to be seriously injured, along with two other reporters.
“We can’t even enter the area or the building where the media office is,” Abu Jafar, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera. “There’s still heavy bombardment.”
Government forces bombarded the Bab Amr neighbourhood for a 20th straight day, according to activists, and fears were growing of a humanitarian crisis in the area.
In a phone interview with British broadcaster BBC on Tuesday, Colvin described the situation in the area as “absolutely sickening”.
She said she had witnessed the death of a two-year-old boy after he was hit by shrapnel, and said there was a “constant stream of civilians” in the field clinic she visited.
“No one here can understand how the international community can let this happen,” she said.
Colvin was an experienced foreign correspondent and was named Foreign Reporter of the Year by the British Press Awards in 2001.She lost an eye to a grenade while working in Sri Lanka.
Ochlik had photographed the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions as well as the war in Libya. His work was published in Le Monde Magazine, Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets.
Hadi al-Abdallah, an activist in Homs, described the humanitarian situation in Bab Amr as “catastrophic” on Wednesday morning.
“Water has been cut off from Bab Amr for 18 days,” he told Al Jazeera. “There’s no electricity, cooking oil or even bread. Many people are literally on the brink of starvation.
“People have fled their homes in fear of being bombed. They took refuge in a mosque, and there they were bombed too.”
Shortage of medicine
The Homs Revolutionary Council reported a shortage of medicine, and said a large number of killed civilians were buried under the rubble of buildings damaged in the shelling.
In the nearby Inshaat neighbourhood, the council said security forces, supported by the army and by armoured vehicles, had carried out house raids and arrests.
Bab Amr is a stronghold of the armed opposition, but activists say most of those killed in the assault on the area are civilians.
The Local Co-ordination Committees says about 3,000 people have been killed in Homs province since the uprising began in March last year. The activist network says more than 8,000 people have been killed nationwide.
Official media said government forces were targeting “armed terrorist groups who have been terrifying citizens and attacking security forces and robbing public and private property”.
State-run news agency SANA cited residents of Homs saying food and services were available and that reports claiming the opposite were “lies”.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said on Wednesday it was coming to the view that military intervention was the only solution to the nearly year-old crisis in the country.
“We are really close to seeing this military intervention as the only solution. There are two evils, military intervention or protracted civil war,” Basma Kodmani, an SNC spokeswoman, told a news conference in Paris.
Kodmani said the SNC was also proposing that Russia, an ally of Syria, help persuade Damascus to guarantee safe passage to humanitarian convoys ferrying aid to civilians. She said the SNC proposed setting up corridors from Lebanon to the besieged city of Homs, from Turkey to Idlib and from Jordan to Deraa.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman said Russia was supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross’s call for a daily two-hour ceasefire to provide aid to the population of Syria.
Alexander Lukashevich said Russia was using its contacts with both the Syrian government and the opposition to help settle humanitarian issues.