In the face of a full-scale ground assault by Assad's forces, the Free Syrian Army has pulled back from the battered neighbourhood of Baba Amr. The group has called on the International Red Cross to immediately rescue thousands of civilians who have been trapped there for almost a month. "The humanitarian situation is at its worst," they warn: "there is no food whatsoever, no medicines, no water and no electricity."
Yet the fight against Assad continues. The FSA has vowed to remain "at the the eye and heart of this revolution until we gain full victory.. whatever the price we have to pay and whatever we have to give up." Brave activists, too, are continuing their unimaginably dangerous work – yesterday rescuing a second foreign journalist, Javier Espinosa, who had been trapped in Baba Amr after two of his colleagues died in a brutal assault.
Javier Espinosa, a reporter for Spanish newspaper El Mundo, left Baba Amr with fellow journalist Paul Conroy and a group of Syrian activists on Sunday. But after the Syrian regime's army shelled the fleeing party, he stopped to try and help the wounded, and was separated from Conroy and the activists. For several hours he was unaccounted for, before finally finding a group that were able to escort him to safety in Lebanon.
During his three-day journey he was helped by an incredible team of activists, supported by Avaaz. In the last seven days, the team have managed to rescue 47 injured Syrians from Baba Amr. Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, yesterday paid tribute to the "staggering bravery" of those involved.
Worryingly, two more journalists, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, remain unaccounted for as the full-scale ground invasion of the Baba Amr neighbourhood continues. Government forces have unleashed the most savage bombardment yet, on a city where over 20,000 people are still trapped.
Time is running out
The UN estimates that Assad's security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt began a year ago, and its Human Rights Council today voted overwhelmingly to condemn "widespread and systematic violations" in Syria. Yet despite mounting international pressure, Russia, China and Cuba voted against the motion – a decision particularly shaming in light of the events of the last few days.
"Javier Espinosa risked his own rescue when he was separated as he stopped to attend to wounded activists," said Ricken Patel. "We can only hope that the bravery of these individuals is matched by the courage of the international community in stopping the horrific atrocities in Homs."
Abu Abdo, a citizen journalist in Bab Sibaa neighbourhood, put it like this: “If the international community isn’t able to protect us or send in humanitarian aid, we ask them to send in burial shrouds to bury our children.”