Red Cross delivers aid in Homs but is blocked from Bab Amr

Red Cross teams handed out food, blankets and medical kits in central Homs province Sunday even as the government blocked access to the worst-hit district of Bab Amr.

The humanitarian group was trying to help families who fled Bab Amr after a month-long siege and took shelter in nearby villages, said Hicham Hassan, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

“The needs are so far mainly in the forms of food and also blankets because of the cold,” Hassan said.

Government forces have prevented humanitarian aid from reaching Bab Amr since Friday, the day after troops seized it from rebels who had been in control of the neighborhood for several months. The Assad government’s offensive in Homs aimed to secure rebel-held neighborhoods inside the city of 1 mllion.

Syrian troops managed to retake Bab Amr after nearly a month of intense and relentless shelling, and activists say hundreds were killed in the daily bombardments that preceded Thursday’s final battle. Some Bab Amr residents died when they ventured out of their homes in a desperate search for food.

Activists have said residents face a humanitarian catastrophe in Bab Amr and other parts of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city. Electricity, water and communications have been cut off, food has been running low, and recent days have seen frigid temperatures and snowfall.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad had said it would allow the Red Cross into Bab Amr on Friday but blocked access for days, citing security concerns.

During that period, activists accused Syrian forces of killing residents execution-style and burning the homes of those believed to be supporting the rebels.

Also Sunday, China, an ally of the Syrian government, offered a proposal to end the violence that called for an immediate cease-fire and talks by all parties. But China stood firm in its opposition to foreign intervention.

The proposal, posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Web site, described the situation in Syria as “grave” and urged an immediate end to all violence. It also called for humanitarian relief and negotiations mediated by the United Nations and the Arab League.

But it rejected outside interference, sanctions and attempts to oust Assad.

“We oppose anyone interfering in Syria’s internal affairs under the pretext of ‘humanitarian’ issues,” the proposal said. “China does not approve of armed interference or pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria and believes that use or threat of sanctions does not help to resolve the issue.”

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