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Homs Residents ‘Planning Their Last Minutes’ Amid ‘Systematic Slaughter’

March 2, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: The Syrian government proclaimed today it had cleansed the Baba Amr district in the city of Homs. That ominous announcement came amid reports of executions and mass arrests and a government refusal to let in relief workers.

We have a report from John Irvine of Independent Television News, based in neighboring Lebanon.

JOHN IRVINE: These protesters north of Homs wanted to prove that, despite the surrender of the stronghold Baba Amr, the uprising goes on. But the regime didn’t like that.

(GUNFIRE)

JOHN IRVINE: It was probably a Syrian army mortar shell. As well as panic, there was death. Claims that 12 people were killed are entirely credible.

We think this woman lost her son.

The street had effectively gone. It looked like Grozny, like some of the French towns in World War I. There were women, children screaming, panic. And people would come up to me and say, where's our help? And I had no answers.Paul Conroy, The Sunday Times

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: The Assad regime is butchering its own people. The history of Homs is being written in the blood of its citizens. The situation there is truly terrible, constant shelling, no water, no food, no medicine, freezing conditions. It is a scene of medieval barbarity.

JOHN IRVINE: Despite all the risks, protesters have turned out in towns and cities across Syria. These pictures were taken in Damascus.

And this is the country’s second city, Aleppo, where there were also clashes with the state security forces. Following the fall of Baba Amr, after almost a month-long siege, the Syrian regime seemingly relented on the issue of aid and gave the Red Cross permission to go in with supplies. But a day later, the regime has still to make good on that promise, and the would-be helpers are frustrated by the delay.

CARLA HADDAD, International Committee of the Red Cross: It is unacceptable that the people of Baba Amr have not received any assistance or humanitarian aid or help in weeks now.

JOHN IRVINE: Despite the surrender of the heart of the protest, Baba Amr, the uprising goes on elsewhere in Syria. It seems nothing can contain it now, not even sustained brutality.

JEFFREY BROWN: There are only a few Western reporters who witnessed firsthand the assault on Homs. Last week, two journalists were killed, including American war correspondent Marie Colvin.

Her photographer, Paul Conroy, was injured during the attack. He was smuggled out of Syria, and today spoke to Jon Snow of ITN’s Channel 4 News.

PAUL CONROY, photographer, The Sunday Times: I think we left behind one of the — another unfolding tragedy that, in 10, 15 years, the world will sit by and say, how did we sit by once again and let this happen?

And the town is — hardly be called a town anymore, just mass destruction, children, women, men huddled together, basically planning their last minutes. The shelling reached a crescendo that – I’ve been to a few wars, and unparalleled, systematic. There are no targets in Baba Amr. There are no military targets. This is a systematic destruction of civilians, property. Everything that they stand for is gone.

JON SNOW, ITN: Paul, as you were coming out, could you get any sense of how many people there really are still holed up there?

PAUL CONROY: There are a lot of people still there. Very few people actually were evacuated from Baba Amr.

There simply — once the siege started, there was no way out. So I don’t know if the illusion is that it was evacuated. It wasn’t. They were exterminated. They’ve been systematically — I went into a building after my injury. It was a street. They put us in the safest house they could find.

I left that building. The street had effectively gone. It looked like Grozny, like some of the French towns in World War I. There were women, children screaming, panic. And people would come up to me and say, where’s our help? And I had no answers. It’s systematic slaughter. It’s not a war. The Free Syrian Army provide bread and a meager defense. This is not a war. This is a massacre.