Shelling in Homs, Hama, and elsewhere in Syria where the government claims to be fighting terrorists has been very intense in the past two weeks. It has created a significant humanitarian problem, to the point that neighboring Lebanon has set up up camps on the border for those who can escape from Homs and Hama, which are close to Lebanon's northern border.
The Red Cross is calling for a two day ceasefire to allow for aid for civilians. The article also points out the dilemma of the SNC over whether or not to accept international intervention, which has divided opinion among the supporters of the opposition.
Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, as activists reported continued shelling of a district of the Syrian city amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis.
Omar Shakir, an activist in the neighbourhood of Bab Amr, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday.
Nine people were reportedly killed in addition to the journalists. Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy was said to be injured, along with two other reporters.
Victoria Nuland, a US state department spokesperson, said the incident was "another example of the shameless brutality of the Assad regime".
France demanded access to the victims of the attack and summoned Syria's envoy to Paris.
"I am asking the Syrian government to immediately stop attacks and respect its humanitarian obligations," Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister said.
"I have asked our embassy in Damascus to require the Syrian authorities provide secure medical access to assist the victims with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross," he said in a statement.
Government forces bombarded the Bab Amr neighbourhood for a 20th straight day, according to activists, leaving at least 30 people killed in the area on Wednesday.
"Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered," Sunday Times editor John Witherow said in a statement.
"She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice."
The statement said the newspaper was doing what it could to get Conroy to safety and to recover Colvin's body.
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.
Hours after the bombardment that killed the journalists, Syria's information ministry said journalists illegally inside the country should report to the government.
"The ministry asks all foreign journalists that have entered Syria illegally to go to the nearest centre for immigration and passports to resolve the situation according to the laws in force," the ministry said in a statement on Syria TV.
Shortage of medicine
In Homs, activist Hadi al-Abdallah, 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."
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.
Journalists Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik reported killed in Homs, Syria By Alice Fordham, Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 6:42 AM
BEIRUT — An American journalist and a French journalist were reported killed in a mortar strike in Homs, Syria, on Wednesday morning, Syrian anti-government activists and a French government spokeswoman said.
One of the slain journalists was U.S.-born Marie Colvin, a veteran foreign correspondent from Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper who has also reported for CNN, the BBC and other media outlets. The other was Remi Ochlik, an award-winning photographer from France.
It was difficult to independently confirm details of the mortar strike, because the Syrian government tightly controls access to Homs and other parts of the country. Valerie Pecresse, a spokeswoman for the French government, confirmed the deaths to reporters in Paris.
British foreign minister William Hague called the killings a terrible reminder of the suffering of the Syrian people, and said governments around the world have a responsibility to end President Bashar al-Assad’s “despicable campaign of terror in Syria.”
“Marie Colvin embodied the highest values of journalism throughout her long and distinguished career,” Hague said.
Opposition activists said Colvin and Ochlik entered Homs without permission from Syrian authorities and were in a house in the Baba Amr neighborhood with other foreign journalists when the building was hit. At least two other journalists, freelance photographer Paul Conroy and French journalist Edith Bouvery, were injured in the attack, activists said. YouTube footage was posted of the two being treated for injuries in Homs. Conroy had been traveling on assignment with Colvin, said John Witherow, editor of the Sunday Times.
Seven activists were also reportedly killed in the mortar strike, said Wissam Tarif of the Avaaz human rights group.
Baba Amr, a center of strength for the increasingly armed opposition to Assad’s rule, has been under bombardment with heavy artillery for almost three weeks. Tuesday was a particularly bloody day, activists said, with 41 people reported killed in Baba Amr alone, including a Syrian activist named Rami al-Sayed who had for months filmed demonstrations in Homs and posted them to YouTube.
World leaders are expected to meet in Tunis on Friday to discuss possible solutions to the Syrian crisis, and top U.S. officials appeared to signal on Tuesday that they would consider arming the Syrian rebels if Assad’s military continues to bombard civilians. In the meantime, the International Committee of the Red Cross has appealed to Syrian officials to allow a daily two-hour truce in the areas where fighting is ongoing, so it can offer aid.
“In Homs ... entire families have been stuck for days in their homes, unable to step outside to get bread, other food or water, or to obtain medical care,” ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.
Last week, New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died in Syria from an asthma attack as he was completing several days of reporting on the Syrian rebels. He had sneaked across the border from Turkey without permission from the Syrian authorities.
Colvin, a veteran reporter of conflicts across the world, lost her sight in one eye after being hit by shrapnel while on assignment in Sri Lanka in 2001, according to media reports. She wore a distinctive black eyepatch to cover the wound, making her easily recognizable in war zones around the world.
A native of Oyster Bay, N.Y., according to the Associated Press, she had twice won Foreign Correspondent of the Year at the British Press Awards ceremony. She went on patrol with the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Balkans as it engaged Serb military forces; was repeatedly attacked by Russian jets in Chechneya while reporting on Chechen rebels; and covered the conflict in East Timor after its people voted for independence, AP said.
In an interview with the BBC from Syria on Tuesday, Colvin — who was in her mid-50s — vividly recounted watching the death of an infant hours earlier. “I watched a little baby die today,” she said. “Absolutely horrific, a 2-year-old child had been hit. They stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest and the doctor said, ‘I can’t do anything.’ ”
As word spread of Colvin’s death, tributes were paid on social media by friends and admirers of her work.“For Marie, covering war wasn’t about doing a few quick interviews and writing up a quick story: she experienced war alongside those who suffered in war, and her writings had a particular vividness because of what she had dared to see and experience,” Peter N. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch wrote on Facebook.
Bill Neely, the international editor of the British ITV television channel, wrote that Colvin, because of her eye injury, knew in the most personal terms “what price war could exact and what suffering it caused.”
“But she was brave,” he wrote. “She took the deep breath over and over and plunged herself in, as deep as she could,to scoop out the nuggets we all need to know.”
A video uploaded to YouTube Wednesday morning purported to show the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik, who was in his late 20s. But it was impossible to confirm the identities of the figures lying amid rubble and dust.
Witherow, editor of the Times, said Colvin was “driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered.”
“Nothing seemed to deter her,” Witherow said in a statement. “But she was much more than a war reporter. She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humor and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery.”
His words were echoed by the newspaper’s owner Rupert Murdoch, who spoke in a statement of his sadness at the news. “She put her life in danger on many occasions because she was driven by a determination that the misdeeds of tyrants and the suffering of the victims did not go unreported,” he said.
This underscores the difficulty of reporting by foreign correspondents in Syria. The government makes it difficult for the correspondents to do 'independent' reports and keeps them in areas where the government controls, so when people cross into areas under rebellion, they are doing so at their own risk. Earlier there was the death of another American correspondent, Anthony Shadid, who died from an asthma attack, but like these two correspondents and many others, had 'smuggled' himself into Syria with out the state's knowledge.
Some video clips:
The first is showing shelling on the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs, where Colvin and Ochlik were believed to have died. Including these two journalists, the shelling in Homs today is said to have killed a total of 80 people according to the committees operating in the city currently.
The second is also from amateur footage, claiming to show two bodies which has been said to be the two journalists. This can't be confirmed. Warning here if you don't want to see dead bodies.
I'd be interested to read the accounts of the foreign journalists who survived this incident. At the moment is sounds a lot like they fell victim to an artillery strike by loyalists, but in a situation like that you can't be sure.
A couple of weeks ago a French journalist was killed who was near a pro-Assad rally. There has been some conflicting information about which side was responsible for that attack.
MrFancypants;5613939I'd be interested to read the accounts of the foreign journalists who survived this incident. At the moment is sounds a lot like they fell victim to an artillery strike by loyalists, but in a situation like that you can't be sure.
I would like to read that too. I don't know who was there though beyond the names listed- between the two articles we get Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvery/Bouvier (seeing both spellings in papers) having also been there but injured, though it's not known where they are now. Edith Bouvier is believed to be in critical condition and in danger of dying from loss of blood.
Seems like the clever thing for them is not to throw any accusations around while they are still in Syria as they may depend on the good-will of both sides to get out.
MrFancypants;5614390Some info: BBC News - French reporter Edith Bouvier asks for Syria evacuation
Seems like the clever thing for them is not to throw any accusations around while they are still in Syria as they may depend on the good-will of both sides to get out.
For those of you who want straight to the video (though the linked BBC article breaks it down, this is useful especially if you can't understand any of the languages in the video), here it is.
The lady is Edith Bouvier that was mentioned earlier too. She's supposed to be the more injured and in immediate need of treatment. There are Syrians in there as well as another fellow French journalist, William Daniels. The other fellow, the British journalist Paul Conroy, also has a video saying he's doing ok (shows his wound) and that they should focus on getting Bouvier out.
The BBC article also discusses the Tunis Conference which is going to discuss the problem in Syria and present demands to open up for humanitarian groups to move in. Russia and China are not attending this summit, they still consider these to be steps towards military intervention.
This is a piece that was aired showing some things on the streets of Homs, at least in the areas that are 'under rebellion', from the perspective of Syrians caught in the state's crackdown.
Snipes With Artillery
22nd March 2005
So, how many more dead Western journalists before some sort of military force get sent in? Any estimates? Or are journalists treated differently than normal citizens when it comes to justifications for invasions?
Crazy Wolf;5614453So, how many more dead Western journalists before some sort of military force get sent in? Any estimates? Or are journalists treated differently than normal citizens when it comes to justifications for invasions?
I'd think so. Lots of war correspondents die in warzones without there being much of a consequence.
This case might be slightly different though. Sarkozy made some remarks which implied that the journalists were targeted. That would be more serious, but the ramifications haven't changed, so I don't think war is very likely. Certainly not in the form of an invasion. Airstrikes are a different matter. We're really good at airstrike diplomacy.
They worked in the journalists during the summit today in Tunis, along with the overall humanitarian crisis, as escalating tension with Syria. "Friends of Syria" is what they're calling themselves, similar to the "Friends of Libya" which recognized the NTC, and now with the Syrian National Council as a legitimate body to open relations with (though not the legitimate government of Syria). They didn't get anything concisive though in the conference, Saudi's were hellbent on providing aid to the Free Syria Army while the US and Europe mostly settled on the Arab Council's 'solution' which is a brokered power transfer similar to what happened in Yemen.