Humanitarian Crisis Worsens In Syria

Activists in Syria say there is a growing humanitarian crisis in a former rebel stronghold in the central city of Homs. Rebel forces withdrew from the area on Thursday. Now the Syrian army has moved in and the government continues to deny access to aid agencies, including the International Red Cross.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The humanitarian crisis worsened today in a former rebel stronghold in Syria. Rebel fighters withdrew from the Baba Amr district of Homs yesterday, and the Syrian government had pledged to allow international aid groups in. But activists say aid groups are still being denied access, while soldiers engaged in a grisly campaign of ransacking homes and executing men. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: After pummeling the Baba Amr neighborhood with tanks and rockets for nearly a month, the Syrian government pledged yesterday to, quote, "cleanse the area." And that's what appeared to be happening today. Activists say soldiers are going house to house, arresting all males over the age of 14. This morning, activists say soldiers lined up 10 men and shot them, execution style.

NADIR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: This activist, who just left Baba Amr and goes by the name Nadir, says soldiers are ransacking people's houses and setting them on fire. The Syrian government says it's after terrorists and armed groups. Neither account can be independently verified. Either way, as the snow continues to fall and temperatures drop, the hundreds or even thousands of civilians who remain in Baba Amr - once an area of nearly 30,000 people - are in desperate need of basic supplies like food, water and electricity. Still, other neighborhoods in Homs and around Syria erupted in protest today.

This video, shot by activists, shows hundreds of people in a neighborhood not far from Baba Amr, saying: Oh, Homs, don't be sorry. I will sacrifice my soul and blood for you. In another city north of Homs, activists say a protest was hit by an explosive device, killing 10 people. Other protests were met with teargas and live ammunition. Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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