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Syrian Activist: 'Idea Of Safety Doesn't Exist Anymore'

Syrian rebels aim during a weapons training exercise outside Idlib, Syria on Tuesday. Syrian government forces renewed their assault on the rebellious city of Homs on Tuesday in what activists described as the heaviest shelling in days.

A day after the United Nations' chief human rights official offered a tough rebuke of Syria, government forces continued their assault on the restive city of Homs. According to the AP, the city has sustained the heaviest shelling in days.

The New York Timescaught up with a activist in Baba Amr, one of the hardest hit areas and he set the scene for the newspaper:

"'The idea of safety doesn't exist anymore in Baba Amr,' said Omar Shakir, an activist in the neighborhood reached via Skype. 'Scary is all that exists.'

"The neighborhood was hit by occasional mortar shells overnight, he said, with the heavier shells starting at first light. Although some people managed to flee the heart of the area, it was hard to leave entirely because it was hemmed in by government forces as it has been since the shelling started on Feb. 4.

"Food was running low, despite efforts by residents to open a shuttered mini-market to get what they could. 'We are under full siege, it is horrible here,' Mr. Shakir said. 'I have not tasted bread for the past five days.' He estimated that some 60 percent of the buildings in the neighborhood had been damaged by the shelling."

A Le Monde photographer identified only as "Mani," offered his take on Homs, this morning. The photographer is just returning from a clandestine trip to Syria and said he was struck by two things: How the opposition had taken control of Homs and how civilians are subjected to shelling and sniper fire on a daily basis.

Mani also offered examples of the daily difficulties lived by Syrians. According to a Google translation of the French interview, Mani said:

"The distribution of flour is a state monopoly. And 'ovens' in the present quarters are no longer supplied. Only a few private distributors continue to deliver to some of these neighborhoods. Consequently, many 'ovens' were closed and the price of bread has almost doubled. We see hundreds of people making lines, waiting for the delivery of bread.

"Moreover, the electricity is off in many districts following the destruction of the transformers by loyalist forces. There is also a shortage of heating oil. People, now, to heat with wood."

Meanwhile the diplomatic maneuvers continue. There are two stories of note on that end today:

-- The Guardian reports that China explained a bit of its thinking in its decision to veto a U.N. resolution that would have condemned the regime of President Bashar Assad.

"China is absolutely not protecting any party, including the government of Syria. The future of Syria is for the Syrian people to decide," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said according to the Guardian.

-- Reuters has a report this morning that reads deeper into an Arab League resolution that was passed on Sunday. Essentially, reports Reuters, the Arab League is using the potential to arm the opposition as a new threat to Assad.

Reuters reports:

"Sunday's Arab League meeting raised the stakes. Its implicit shuffle towards backing military resistance to Assad's forces was meant to add pressure on the Syrian leader and his Russian and Chinese allies. Yet it also risks leading to a Libya-style conflict or sectarian civil war that everyone wants to avoid.

"'It is unacceptable for Assad to practice all types of killing of civilians while we stand silent,' one Arab ambassador said, explaining the rationale behind the resolution that returned the Syria issue to the United Nations with a call for a joint U.N.-Arab peacekeeping force."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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