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Syria Aid Effort Widens as Government Attacks Continue

A Syrian child with her family, which fled from the Syrian town of Qusair near Homs, at the Lebanese-Syrian border village of Qaa, eastern Lebanon, March 5, 2012.
A Syrian child with her family, which fled from the Syrian town of Qusair near Homs, at the Lebanese-Syrian border village of Qaa, eastern Lebanon, March 5, 2012.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says aid workers in Syria have reached two besieged Homs neighborhoods, widening their help efforts. The humanitarian relief comes as two U.N.-related envoys plan to visit Syria in the coming days and as Syrian government forces continued shelling in some areas.

A resident of the town of Rastan, north of Homs, describes destruction from government shelling Monday.  Witnesses say government artillery has shelled Rastan for nearly two weeks.

Arab satellite channels say government forces set fire to some homes and shops in the Homs district of Baba Amr, which rebels left last week.

Syrian state television says government forces “cleaned up a bastion of foreign, Islamic terrorists. ” It showed video of what it said are seized drugs and munitions.

Opposition activists claim government tanks have stormed the mountain town of Bayroud, near Syria's border, overlooking Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, says a Christian resident of Bayroud described the raid.

He says the situation in Bayroud is dire because of the extreme cold and recent snowfall, which makes it difficult to flee. He said the Lebanese Army is also not allowing many Syrians to enter Lebanon.

But witnesses along Lebanon's northern border with Syria say that several thousand people have fled into Lebanon in the past 48 hours.  Alhurra television reported that the Lebanese Army arrested 39 armed men after they crossed the border.

Diab said Syrian forces appear to be concentrating attacks on regions along its borders with Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon to prevent an influx of arms.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says aid workers in Syria have reached two Homs neighborhoods near Baba Amr. ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan says that a Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy arrived on Monday in the Homs neighborhoods of al-Tawzii and al-Inshaat.

Aid workers have been trying to enter Baba Amr itself since Friday after receiving Syrian government approval to do so, but troops have blocked access to the district.

On the diplomatic front, the United Nations says two envoys plan to visit Syria.

U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos says Syria has granted her permission to visit Damascus from Wednesday to Friday to discuss the crisis.

U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan is expected to travel to the country on Saturday on his first visit since being appointed to the post last month. Annan's office says he will seek an "urgent end to all violence and human rights violations."

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