UN humanitarian chief enters Syria's battered Baba Amr

The UN humanitarian chief briefly visited the battered Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr with a Syrian Red Crescent team on Wednesday, as Washington revealed it is mulling non-lethal aid to the rebels.

Valerie Amos was stopped from going into areas of Homs still held by the opposition, despite receiving assurances from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in earlier talks that she could go to any part of the country, her spokeswoman Amanda Pitt told AFP.

"She says that the parts they saw were completely devastated," Pitt told AFP. "She said Homs feels like a city that has been completely closed down.

"There were very few people around. They did see a few people looking for their belongings, that kind of thing."

The group "tried to get into opposition areas, but they were not able to do so. Security was definitely an issue. They heard gunfire as well," Pitt said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child was among four people shot dead on Wednesday in Khaldiyeh, a Homs neighbourhood where rebels remain active.

They were among 19 people killed in violence nationwide, the Britain-based watchdog added.

The Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross had been trying since last Friday to enter Baba Amr -- the target of a month-long bombardment to oust rebel fighters -- but the government repeatedly barred them from evacuating wounded civilians and delivering desperately needed supplies.

Amos and the Red Crescent team were only able to make a lightning tour of Baba Amr during her hard-won visit, ICRC officials said.

"Amos entered with the team of volunteers from the Syrian Red Crescent, which stayed 45 minutes in the district," ICRC spokesman Hisham Hassan said in Geneva.

Aid was being distributed to the displaced civilians in the areas where they had found refuge and some 350 families had been given assistance over the past two days, he said.

Last week, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger called the government's decision to deny aid workers access to Baba Amr "unacceptable."

The authorities said the earlier ban was prompted by safety concerns but the opposition charged that the delay was aimed at allowing time for the regime's "crimes" to be covered up.

Amos flew in to Damascus for a two-day visit after an international outcry over the earlier refusal of President Bashar al-Assad's regime to let her in.

She is to be followed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on Saturday.

The former UN chief was in Cairo on Wednesday ahead of his first visit since his appointment as international envoy for Syria.

In his talks with Amos, Muallem "underlined Syria's commitment to cooperate with the delegation within the framework of the respect, sovereignty and independence of Syria," state SANA news agency said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the overall death toll since last March has now reached almost 8,500, with civilians accounting for three-quarters of those killed.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington was looking at delivering non-lethal aid to rebel forces, while warning of the risks of military action against Assad's regime without international consensus or a unified opposition.

While outraged at the killing of civilians in Syria, the US government is opposed to taking unilateral military action and favors pursuing diplomacy to force Assad to step down, Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal if the United States was ready to deliver communications equipment to Syrian rebels, Panetta said: "I'd prefer to discuss that in a closed session but I can tell you that we're considering an array of non-lethal assistance."

His answer marked the first time President Barack Obama's administration had suggested it was ready to provide direct assistance to Syria's rebels, who are badly outgunned by the regime's tanks and artillery.

The Pentagon chief condemned the Syrian regime's crackdown but expressed caution about military intervention, citing a lack of international consensus, a deeply divided resistance and the risk of fueling a civil war.

"We are reviewing all possible additional steps that can be taken with our international partners to support efforts to protect the Syrian people, end the violence and ensure regional stability, including potential military options if necessary," Panetta said.

"Although we will not rule out any future course of action, currently the administration is focusing on diplomatic and political approaches rather than a military intervention," he said.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki renewed an offer of asylum to Assad in an interview to be shown Thursday, after Russia said the Syrian leader said there was no question of it granting the Syrian leader refuge.

Incoming president Vladimir Putin had rejected the idea of Russia offering Assad refuge as a way of helping put an end to nearly a year of bloodshed in its Soviet-era ally.

"We are not even discussing this question," news agencies quoted him as saying.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post
    Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post

    After nearly a year, President Aquino finally made good his promise to a long-time ally – former Cavite governor and congressman Erineo Maliksi – to head the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), replacing Margarita Juico who resigned in May 2014. Maliksi must be officially elected by the PCSO board members as their chairman. Prior to his appointment to the PCSO, Maliksi faced graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged illegal purchase of P2.5 million worth …

  • US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense
    US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense

    A massive deployment of aircraft, personnel and warships characterizes this year’s Balikatan between the two allies, which war games were launched 30 years ago. Commander Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy public affairs chief, said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) will link  up with the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. …

  • P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China
    P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China

    With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia. Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the …

  • OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism
    OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday backed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), warning that failure to see the peace process through with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could open the door to extremism. OIC secretary-general Iyad Bin Amin Madani, who is in the country to rally support for the peace process and the BBL, told reporters at the Senate yesterday that the Philippines should not waste the opportunity to attain lasting peace in Mindanao, especially …

  • Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed
    Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed

    The head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is opposing the plan of the Senate to investigate alleged “justice for sale” in the judiciary. In an interview yesterday, IBP national president Vicente Joyas contested the pronouncement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate Blue Ribbon committee can probe the reported corruption in the judiciary, as it remains part of the scope of the Senate’s investigative power. “The plan of the Senate to push through with the …

  • PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view
    PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view

    The camp of Floyd Mayweather is reportedly charging the Philippine National Police P200,000 for a pay-per-view deal of his fight with Manny Pacquiao, a PNP official said yesterday. Director Danilo Constantino, the PNP’s Chief Directorial Staff, said the cost of the pay-per-view for the fight makes it difficult for the PNP to sponsor the free viewing for its personnel and their dependents at Camp Crame’s multi-purpose center. “We are currently negotiating for the pay-per-view and we ever …

  • No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP
    No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP

    There has been no disruption in the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) since former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima was suspended in December 2014, an official said yesterday. PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is the one signing the PTCFOR cards, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said. Cerbo, however, could not say when Espina started signing the cards and how many PTCFORs have …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options