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Syrian Forces Pound Rebel-held Town as Some Aid Gets Through

Protesters hold a banner reading,
Protesters hold a banner reading, "Demand international protection and humanitarian aid" during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Al Qusour, Homs, March 2, 2012.

Syrian government forces pounded the northern rebel-held town of Rastan Sunday along with several districts of the beleaguered city of Homs. Humanitarian aid reached some areas near Homs but not the battered district of Baba Amr, taken by government forces Thursday.  

A Red Cross convoy to the Baba Amr district of Homs has been unable to reach it, according to International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman in Damascus, Saleh Dabakeh.  He said, however, that the Syrian Red Crescent Society is distributing aid elsewhere in and around Homs.

"We are trying to get in, since actually Friday, and although we have authorizations to get in, we have not been able to get in yet," he said. "We have not been allowed to get in.  A lot of the population of Baba Amr has been displaced during the fighting. They left, a lot of them left, so they have gone to nearby neighborhoods and villages. So, today we were distributing at a village called Abel, SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) volunteers have been distributing all across Homs. We have food, non-food items such as hygiene kits, we're handing [out] blankets, and SARC, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, is even I think giving baby milk and diapers, as well."

Dabakeh notes that many residents of Baba Amr have fled to other parts of Homs and its outskirts, and are often living with friends, relatives, or even strangers.

“People in Homs are extremely hospitable. I have seen them giving their houses, the keys to their houses over to people they have never seen in their lives. So, even people you don't know, if they have room, they will take you in.”

The Syrian press Sunday claimed that it was still unsafe to enter Baba Amr because of the possibility of booby-trapped houses or mines. Other sources say government troops are still meeting resistance and continue to conduct mop-up operations.

Troops loyal to President Bashar al- Assad are reportedly continuing their offensive elsewhere in the country in parts of Daraa, near the Jordanian border, Deir ez Zor near Iraq, and in Hama and Idlib. Opposition activists claim government helicopters shelled several cities.

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, says the Syrian government expects to crush the opposition Free Syrian Army, no matter how long it takes.

"It is logical considering the regime's mindset to follow up their gains in Homs by taking further land held by the opposition. So, I think the policy of the regime is to move from one area to another until they get done with the major military operations and claim victory and the regime is counting that they should be able to crush the bulk of the uprising by the end of March and then focus their energies on liquidating pockets of resistance, and they don't care if it takes them a year. But, right now they are trying to break the backbone of the Free Syrian Army," he said.

Opposition activist Hadi Abdallah in Homs told al Arabiya TV that there had been “numerous revenge killings and executions in Baba Amr,” including of women and children, during the past several days. He implored the world to help put a stop to the killings.

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