Assad: Homs - A Promise Given ... A Promise Broken
During the Geneva 2 conference, the UN was discussing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the City of Homs and the evacuation of civilians with the Regime delegation. According to The Australian, "This week Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi and UN resident coordinator Yaacoub El Hillo have reached an agreement securing the exit of innocent civilians from the Old City and the entrance of humanitarian assistance for civilians who choose to stay."
This morning, the UN and Syrian Red Crescent arrived in Homs, ready to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid, including food and medicines. Tensions were high as it was reported by activists that there was no known agreement that the humanitarian aid could enter the city.
Middle East WSJ Correspondent Sam Dagher reported from the front line in Central Homs today, live from Twitter. He reported that the City of Homs has been besieged for more than 18 months. Sam said the UN and Red Crescent waited four hours for some kind of resolution regarding the agreement to enter Homs with the Humanitarian aid. After the four hour, wait he said, "there was an agreement made that the food aid could enter the old city with aid for 500 trapped families. There was also a deal that some of the citizens could leave."
The agreement by the regime to let UN convoys have access to the old city of Homs, as proposed by the UN and accepted by the opposition certainly fell by the wayside. According to Syrian Activist Yalla Souriya, "repeated breach of the truce by the regime prevented the expected humanitarian aid delivery and rescue of besieged people in the morning."
Yalla Souriya stated "the shelling of the neighborhoods of Old Homs, especially alhamidah, went on without regard to the United Nations personnel who were accompanying the convoy. Activists from Homs reported that the efforts to prevent the arrival of aid was carried out by the "army of national defense" otherwise known as "thugs" or "shabiha." Their efforts were a failure, however, as the aid was delivered, despite multiple challenges.
At approximately 5 pm (Syria time), the convoy did enter the city at great risk with two trucks and enough food to feed 500 families. As the aid trucks moved forward, Sam Dagher reported, "blasts could be heard." He went on to explain that four trucks started out, however, as the blasts continued two of the trucks turned around and left. The other two trucks stuck to the mission, determined to deliver the food and medicine to the people who needed it.
Two Aid Trucks Unload Aid In Old Homs
People in old Homs unload aid from two trucks
While unloading aid, the vehicles received direct hits from incoming fire. At least five people were killed and many others were injured during the unloading process in the besieged neighborhoods.
UN Personnel Run For Cover As Bombs Fall Near Their Vehicles
Yalla Souriya reported that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said "mortar fire landed close to its convoy and shots were fired at its trucks, wounding one of its drivers and violating a three-day ceasefire in the city." On twitter, Sam Dagher said, "the sniper fire did not come from rebels."
This certainly was a tense and dangerous mission. It is amazing that the UN and Red Crescent were able to continue their mission under such horrendous conditions. This shows their unwavering commitment to the humanitarian cause.
The UN and Red Crescent Aid workers stayed in Homs much longer than expected, as once they did manage to get the food and medical aid off-loaded there wasn't a safe route out of the area for several hours. The activists did what they could to take care of all of the wounded, including the aid workers who were injured.
UN And Red Crescent Aid Workers Take Shelter With Citizens Of Homs During Shelling
Yalla Souriya reported that shelling from wadi alZahab could be heard for at least two hours after the Humanitarian Aid team left Homs. Additionally, he has identified twitter chatter in Arabic obviously from shabiha thugs who are laughing about the direct hits on the humanitarian aid convoy, preventing aid from getting into the old part of Homs, and referring to artillery shelling from wadi Alzahab. Wadi Alzahab is known as an Assad loyal area of Homs according to Yalla Souriya.
The Syrian Coalition Released The Following Statement After Today's Terrible Events
"Syrian Coalition calls for a UN Resolution Following Regime Attacks on UN and Evacuees in Homs. Video footage and eyewitness accounts coming out of the besieged city of Homs show regime forces firing on UN aid convoys and civilians being evacuated. The attacks - which likely constitute a war crime - are the latest in a series where the regime has violated promises of safe passage. A number of countries are currently considering tabling a resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling for humanitarian access. The Syrian Coalition urgently calls on the UNSC to pass this resolution as soon as possible. The regime has repeatedly shown cynical disregard for the lives of Syrian civilians, as well the opinion of the international community. However, firing at the United Nations aid convoys and at civilians who put their trust in the an international body is a new low point. Considering the regime's previous actions, any new resolution must incorporate mechanisms that apply concrete pressure on the regime to fulfil its public pledges. We ask for Mercy for our martyrs, health for our wounded, and freedom for our detainees. Long live Syria and its people, free and with honor."
Five citizens of Homs were martyred today waiting for humanitarian aid:
Bilal Abu Samra ABu Bak Al Furati Omar Khodr AL Jaseem Abu Rakan Abdel Karim Al Basha Abadallah Balaq - Abu Mohammad Abdallah Masharfa
Promise Made And Then Broken
The UN negotiated in good faith with Assad's representative in Homs, Governor Talal al-Barazi. The promise that humanitarian aid would be allowed into the Old City of Homs was given less than a week after the Geneva 2 conference ended. Just a few days later, a convoy of aid trucks arrived at the entrance of Homs, as planned.
The promise was taken back when the convoy was blatantly attacked with shelling and sniper fire. Heroes were wounded today, and innocent citizens who have lived under unimaginable conditions for 18 months were martyred in an act that makes no sense. Why make the promise at all?
Kimberly Jones is a global nomad who writes about international issues, however, she has a special interest in Middle East and North Africa affairs. Read more stories by Kimberly Jones.
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