The U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos accompanied a Syrian Arab Red Crescent team on Wednesday into a former rebel-held district of Homs where dissidents have reported bloody reprisals by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“She went in with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to Baba Amr,” an International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman said.
The Red Crescent team found that most residents had fled the district, where rebels had resisted a 26-day army siege until March 1, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.
Amos, who was denied entry to Syria last week, is on a three-day mission to persuade authorities to grant unfettered access for aid workers to needy civilians caught up in violence.
An ICRC convoy has been unable to enter Baba Amr since arriving in Homs Friday, a day after the district fell.
“The Syrian Arab Red Crescent stayed inside Baba Amr for about 45 minutes. They found that most inhabitants had left Baba Amr to areas that have been already visited by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the past week,” Hassan said.
The long delay in securing access for relief agencies trying to deliver supplies and evacuate the wounded has fuelled international concern about the fate of survivors in Baba Amr.
In the latest of several accounts of killings and other abuses, local activist Mohammed al-Homsi said troops and pro-Assad militiamen had stabbed to death seven males, including a 10-year-old, from one family Tuesday. “Their bodies were dumped in farmland next to Baba Amr,” he told Reuters.
Syrian media curbs make it hard to verify such reports.
Amos went to Homs after seeing Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus. He told her Syria was trying to meet the needs of all citizens despite the burdens imposed by “unfair” Western and Arab sanctions, the state news agency SANA said.
Syria’s military pursued its crackdown on opponents of Assad elsewhere. Activists said tanks shelled Rastan, a town north of Homs. Troops staged raids in Qara and Yabroud north of Damascus, in the cities of Deir al-Zor and Aleppo, and in Hama province.