Syrian protesters 370 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad faced growing Western anger on Tuesday for preventing aid from entering a devastated district of Homs and over accusations of human rights abuses, including pictures said to show torture victims at a hospital in the city.
Dozens of men, women and children returned on foot to Baba Amr, passing bullet-pocked and damaged buildings, days after rebel fighters pulled out after a sustained and heavy military assault. The Red Cross was awaiting approval to distribute aid to the devastated district which endured a month of siege.
Residents who fled the district spoke of bodies decomposing under rubble, sewage mixing with litter in the streets, and a campaign of arrests and executions.
"The smell of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies buried under the rubble all the time," said Ahmad, who escaped to Lebanon. "We saw so much death that at the end the sight of a dismembered body ... stopped moving us."
Despite their chorus of outrage as Homs residents gave more detailed accounts of the siege of Baba Amr, Western leaders have ruled out a Libya-style military intervention in Syria, fearing it could trigger wider conflict in the Middle East.
A Chinese diplomat arrives in Damascus later on Tuesday to meet Syria's foreign minister and to outline Beijing's plan for halting the violence, while UN envoys Kofi Annan and Valerie Amos are expected in the Syrian capital this week.
The UN says more than 7,500 civilians have died in Syria's crackdown on protests against Assad's government, which portrays the nearly year-long uprising as a campaign by foreign-backed Islamist insurgents.
Residents of Baba Amr said they knew the end was near when the army blew up a 3-km (2-mile) tunnel they had used to smuggle in essentials keeping them alive. "They said they have a list of 1,500 men and they want them all ... They are shooting everything that is moving, even animals. There are bodies in the streets, some are swollen and carry signs of torture," Omar said with a trembling voice.