Canada Blasts Syria's Blocking Of Red Cross Aid

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An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV on February 25, 2012 shows Red Crescent and Red Cross medics at a hospital in the Syrian city of Homs on February 24, 2012 as they attempt to evacuate Syrians wounded in shelling by regime forces as well as some women and children. The Red Cross made a new attempt on February 25 to bring out people trapped in the city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians. AFP PHOTO/HO/SYRIA TV | AFP/Getty Images

Canada's foreign affairs minister has condemned what he calls the "depravity" of the continuing offensive by security forces in Syria and moves to prevent the Red Cross from reaching the dead and injured in the central city of Homs.

"The depravity and reprehensible acts of the Assad regime continue to sink to new lows," John Baird said in a statement released Saturday night.

"Assad and his regime are blocking humanitarian aid from getting to the Syrians that need it most, while making life miserable for countless more."

Canada, which has already imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime, is considering new measures to make it clear that Assad must go, Baird said.

"Change will happen. Syrians will have their day and Canada stands with them in their calls for a better, brighter future."

The statement was issued three days after Syrian troops — battling a year-long anti-government uprising — seized control of Baba Amr, the worst-hit district of Homs. Rebels were flushed out of their besieged stronghold after what activists reported was a nearly month-long campaign of shelling by government forces.

The Red Cross has been trying to gain access to Baba Amr, but it could be days before aid teams are allowed in, a spokesman said Sunday.

Activists say hundreds were killed in the daily shelling, many while sneaking out of their homes to forage for food.

Those who have been able to flee have gained access to aid supplies outside the city. But concern is growing for the hungry and wounded left behind, with temperatures expected to be at the freezing mark Sunday night.

Red Cross pushes for access

In an interview with CBC News from Damascus, Saleh Dabbakeh, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the agency has established an aid distribution centre in a town about 30 kilometres from Baba Amr.

"And tomorrow we'll start in another neighbourhood," he said, while adding the agency continues to press for access to Baba Amr.

Dabbakeh said some hospitals continue to function in parts of Homs, outside Baba Amr.

"When we evacuated a few of the injured the week before last Friday, we took them to a hospital in Homs that was and still is functioning," he said.

The Syrian government had said it would allow the Red Cross to enter the district on Friday, but troops on the ground denied an aid convoy entry, citing safety concerns such as land mines.

Opposition activists said aid workers were being kept out of the area so they do not see Syrian army "massacres."

On Sunday, spokesman Shueib Shaaban of the Homs chapter of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Red Cross's local branch, said the group had an agreement with the provincial governor to enter the neighbourhood on Tuesday.

Thousands of Syrians, mostly women and children, have been fleeing the violence in and around Homs and crossing the border into northern Lebanon, according to the UN refugee agency.

Dabbakeh said both the ICRC and the Lebanese Red Cross will be providing assistance to the refugees.


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