Last Updated: Fri Feb 24, 2012 23:10 pm (KSA) 20:10 pm (GMT)

Red Cross, Red Crescent enter Syria’s Baba Amro to evacuate the wounded: ICRC

Demonstrators protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib. (Reuters)
Demonstrators protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib. (Reuters)

Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances entered the besieged Homs district of Baba Amro on Friday and evacuated seven Syrians wounded in bombardments by regime forces, the ICRC said.

But the ambulances did not evacuate two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two others, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross told AFP, adding that negotiations in their case were still under way.

“Three ambulances entered Baba Amro and they have left. They evacuated so far seven wounded Syrian citizens,” Saleh Dabbakeh said.

“Negotiations continue with the Syrian authorities and the opposition in an attempt to evacuate all persons, without exception, who are in need of urgent help,” he added.

The evacuation was organized by the ICRC along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and was the first time rescuers had entered the flashpoint Baba Amro neighborhood in 21 straight days of deadly bombardment.

Eleven ambulances and other vehicles drove into the district, but only three ambulances left with wounded Syrians, although Dabbakeh earlier said the operation would also include the Western journalists.

Earlier, Hicham Hassan of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that the ICRC and its local Syrian branch have been working in the Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs since Friday afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

The team is “negotiating with both Syrian authorities and opposition in an attempt to evacuate all persons in need of assistance with no exception,” he said, meaning local residents and foreign journalists.

Dabbakeh had earlier told AFP that relief teams would be aiming to help everyone in need, not just the foreign reporters, once they entered the Baba Amro district, which has been under siege and bombardment since Feb. 4.

“If we go to Homs, it will not be only to evacuate the journalists but also for the people of Homs that need assistance and medical evacuation,” he said.

U.S. journalist Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed on Wednesday when a rocket hit a makeshift media center in Baba Amro, a rebel stronghold.

French reporter Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy both suffered leg wounds in the same rocket attack.

More than 7,600 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assados regime began last March, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

One video posted on YouTube Thursday showed Bouvier lying on a hospital gurney with a white cast stretching from her left ankle to her thigh, according to AP. Conroy is on a nearby bed, with white bandages around his left thigh and calf. The video says he was injured by shrapnel from the rocket attack.

In another video, Bouvier is covered with a blanket and lying on what appears to be a couch. She says her leg is broken in two places and that she needs an operation that local medics cannot perform.

“I need, as soon as possible, a cease-fire and a medically equipped car in good condition to drive us to Lebanon,” she says.

Daniels, who is uninjured, stands at her side and pleads for their swift evacuation.

“It is difficult here. We don't have electricity. We don't have much to eat. The bombs continue to fall,” he said, adding that they only have Internet access in a dangerous place on the neighborhood’s edge.

A boom is heard outside as he speaks.

It was unclear which of the videos was recorded first and if the journalists have moved since. It is also unclear where the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik are. The day they died, activists posted a video of what they said were the reporters' bodies lying in the bombed-out media center.

Syrian activists in Baba Amro could not be reached Friday to comment on the journalists’ whereabouts.

Speaking in Tunisia at a major international conference of American, U.S. and Arab officials on the Syrian crisis, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he was worried about the French journalists and that Syrian authorities had not given permission for the French ambassador to Syria to go to Homs to arrange their evacuation.

“I appeal personally to the Syrian authorities that Madame Bouvier and the others receive the medical care they urgently need,” he said.

The Red Cross didn’t say how its team reached the area and whether they were accompanied by Syrian authorities.

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