Today, the British journalist Paul Conroy finally escaped into Lebanon. Conroy had been injured and trapped in Baba Amr, Homs, for six days under continuous Syrian army bombardment, since the makeshift media centre where he was staying was deliberately shelled, killing journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. The three other journalists – Javier Espinosa, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels – remain trapped inside the city.
Our network responded to the pleas from the journalists, their families and colleagues to try and evacuate them. Each night, we have been working with more than 35 heroic Syrian activists on the ground, who volunteered to help in the rescue.
A heavy price
Tragically, a large number of these brave people were killed in the rescue operation, as Assad's forces targeted those escaping both the field hospital and the Baba Amr district of Homs. Three died under heavy shelling as they tried to help the journalists through Baba Amr, and a further ten died bringing relief supplies into the neighbourhood. On the day of the evacuation, over 7,000 people had been forced to flee their neighbourhoods in south Homs, in fear of further massacres.
“Paul Conroy’s rescue today is a huge relief, but this must be tempered with the news that three journalists remain unaccounted for and with our respects for the incredibly courageous activists who died during the evacuation attempts," said Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz. "The rescue is ongoing and we are deeply disappointed that sections of the media broke this story before all the journalists are safe. The world must now listen carefully to the human horror stories that Paul will tell, and act to end this bloodbath and deliver the urgent relief and protection to the people of Syria.”
The battle continues
Yesterday, the bodies of 64 people were discovered discarded on the outskirts of Homs, adding to the total of 124 people, including women and children, confirmed dead just from yesterday’s violence. According to the latest reports from citizen journalists still able to operate in country, the Syrian government has now moved in on the ground to neighbourhoods all over Homs, in the most savage and sustained assault since continual shelling of the city began 23 days ago. Tens of thousands of people are now in danger, and families last night were taken hostage by pro-government militias.