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A woman sat in a wheelchair near her damaged house after an air raid by the Syrian army near the district area of Homs, Syria, Sunday. (Photo: Yazan Homsy / Reuters via The Wall Street Journal)

A woman sat in a wheelchair near her damaged house after an air raid by the Syrian army near the district area of Homs, Syria, Sunday. (Photo: Yazan Homsy / Reuters via The Wall Street Journal)

They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks. They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name.

My mum yelled at them. She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’ A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.

They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I’m dead.

From an account of the Syrian government’s massacre in Houla, Homs province by an 11-year-old survivor, as told to The Guardian.

Jesus fucking Christ.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said on Thursday that an apparent defection by Syria’s deputy oil minister represented an “important moment” in an uprising that has turned increasingly violent.

On Wednesday, a man identifying himself as the deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameldin, appeared in a video posted to YouTube and said that he had left his post to join the “revolution of this dignified people.” The authenticity of the video, which was filmed at an undisclosed location, could not be verified.

If confirmed, the defection of the deputy oil minister would place him among the most senior officials to abandon the government of President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising began nearly a year ago. “It would be the highest-ranking civilian resignation so far,” the spokesman for Mr. Cameron, Steve Field, told reporters in London.

The video appeared as the United Nations’ top relief official, Valerie Amos, visited the ravaged Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday — the first inspection there by an independent outside observer since pro-Assad forces launched a sustained military assault. Ms. Amos said on Thursday that she was “struck” by the destruction, which she described as “significant” in the heavily bombarded neighborhood of Baba Amr.

“That part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to learn what happened to the people in that part of the city,” she said on Thursday in Damascus, news reports said.

The New York Times, “Syrian Minister Appears to Defect and Join Opposition”

theweekmagazine:

The children of Syria’s revolution: The Red Cross is still shut out of Homs’ Bab Amro district — which was a rebel stronghold before a ruthless crackdown — and the latest reports from inside tell grisly tales of the military targeting boys for execution. Nevertheless, across the country, Syrians of all ages continue to protest President Bashar al-Assad’s violent reign. More photos available here

The Syrian authorities on Friday blocked without explanation an officially sanctioned Red Cross convoy laden with food and medical supplies from entering a devastated neighborhood in the central city of Homs, one day after the army overwhelmed the main rebel stronghold there following a brutal monthlong siege.

There were unconfirmed reports that Syrian security forces were conducting house-to-house searches and summary executions in the neighborhood, Baba Amr, while the convoy of seven Red Cross trucks was parked at the edge of the neighborhood, where military sentries refused to grant it entry despite having received official approval 24 hours earlier. It was unclear why the Syrian military had blocked the convoy.The Red Cross angrily rebuked the Syrian government in a statement that reflected the growing international frustration with delays on funneling help to civilians whose lives have been upended by the antigovernment uprising in Syria that is now nearly a year old.

“It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,” Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva.

He said the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society, which together had sent the convoy to Homs in the morning, waited all day to enter Baba Amr. “We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amr in the very near future,” Mr. Kellenberger said. “In addition, many families have fled Baba Amr, and we will help them as soon as we possibly can.”

He said the “humanitarian situation was very serious then and it is worse now.”

The New York Times, “Syria Bars Red Cross Convoy From Fallen Rebel Bastion”

Marking the first public break with its longtime patron, a leader of Hamas spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, throwing its support behind the opposition and stripping Damascus of what little credibility it may have retained with the Arab street.

Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said during Friday Prayer, “I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.”

The worshipers shouted back, “God is great” and “Syria! Syria!”

Mr. Haniya made his remarks in support of the uprising that is seeking to oust Mr. Assad, a reversal after years in which Mr. Assad has given safe haven to leaders of Hamas while helping supply it with weapons and cash in its battle against Israel. But the remarks were almost as significant for where they were made: in Cairo, at Al Azhar Mosque. During the years in which Syria supported Hamas, Egypt’s leaders were hostile to the group, treating it as a despised relative of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also tagged an outlaw and banned. So Mr. Haniya’s remarks in Egypt served as another measure of how much has changed since popular uprisings began to sweep the region, removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and now trying to topple Mr. Assad.

Mr. Haniya’s comments confirmed a distance between Hamas and Damascus that emerged several weeks ago when the group’s leadership abandoned its longtime base in Syria as the environment there became more violent. The remarks, which were seen as the group’s official position because of Mr. Haniya’s role, reflected a progressively deeper split with Mr. Assad. Hamas also recently allowed residents of Gaza to stage protests against Mr. Assad and in support of the uprising.

The New York Times, “In Break, Hamas Supports Syrian Opposition”

BORDERLAND   This satellite image shows a pipeline fire in Homs, Syria. The pipeline,  which runs through the rebel-held neighbourhood of Baba Amr, had been  shelled by regime troops for the previous 12 days, according to two  activist groups, the Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based  Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The state news agency, SANA,  blamed “armed terrorists” for the pipeline attack.  (Photo: Digital Globe / AP via the Telegraph)

BORDERLAND   This satellite image shows a pipeline fire in Homs, Syria. The pipeline, which runs through the rebel-held neighbourhood of Baba Amr, had been shelled by regime troops for the previous 12 days, according to two activist groups, the Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The state news agency, SANA, blamed “armed terrorists” for the pipeline attack.  (Photo: Digital Globe / AP via the Telegraph)

NY TIMES: The United Nations Commission investigating the devolving situation in Syria "received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protesters, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate tanks and machinegun fire... A reliable body of evidence exists that, consistent with other verified circumstances, provides reasonable grounds to believe that particular individuals, including commanding officers and officials at the highest levels of government, bear responsibility for crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations." »

Jon Snow, an anchor for Britain’s Channel 4 News, which interviewed Ms. Colvin from Homs on Tuesday evening, called her “the most courageous journalist I ever knew and a wonderful reporter and writer.”

She was also interviewed by the BBC, recounting how she had watched a two-year-old child die in Homs. “ I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific, just a two-year-old,” she said.

In an article published on Feb. 19 in The Sunday Times, Ms. Colvin described with how she entered Homs “on a smugglers’ route, which I promised not to reveal, climbing over walls in the dark and slipping into muddy trenches. Arriving in the darkened city in the early hours, I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting Allahu akbar — God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.

“When everyone had calmed down I was driven in a small car, its lights off, along dark empty streets, the danger palpable. As we passed an open stretch of road, a Syrian army unit fired on the car again with machine guns and launched a rocket-propelled grenade,” Ms. Colvin wrote.

“The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one,” she wrote.

The New York Times, “Two Western Journalists Killed In Syria Shelling.”

The link to the Sunday Times article is here; subscription required.

Two journalists are among the latest casualties of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s murderous bombing of Homs: Marie Colvin, left, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer.  Three other journalists were wounded when an explosion tore through a building being used as a makeshift media center in the central Syrian city.  (Photos via the Sunday Times [Colvin] and EPA; caption via the New York Times)

Two journalists are among the latest casualties of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s murderous bombing of Homs: Marie Colvin, left, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer.  Three other journalists were wounded when an explosion tore through a building being used as a makeshift media center in the central Syrian city.  (Photos via the Sunday Times [Colvin] and EPA; caption via the New York Times)