* ICRC says has permission, but still unable to enter
* Shelling of border town forces flight to Lebanon
* China calls for talks, opposes foreign interference
(Adds Red Cross comment, Qusair shelling, Beirut protests)
By Mohammed Abbas and Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT, March 4 The Red Cross hoped to
deliver vital aid to the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday but
troops were still stopping it getting through despite government
permission, three days after rebels were flushed out of their
"We have the green light, we hope to enter, we hope today
is the day," said the International Committee of the Red Cross's
Damascus-based spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh, declining to give
further details about what he said were sensitive talks with
"We are very concerned about the people in Baba Amro," he
said, referring to the isolated Homs neighbourhood.
After a month of bombardment by President Bashar al-Assad's
forces, concerns mounted for freezing, hungry and wounded
civilians in Homs. Opposition activists said aid workers were
being kept out so they do not see Syrian army "massacres".
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said he had
received "grisly reports" troops were executing and torturing
people in Homs after insurgents abandoned their positions.
South of Homs, the border town of Qusair came under shelling
by government forces that forced residents to flee on foot to
neighbouring Lebanon, a Reuters witness said.
"The people said they were sat at home and suddenly the
shelling started and they fled. They said it was tank shelling
and gunfire," said Reuters reporter Afif Diab.
He spoke at the border to what he said were mainly women
fleeing with their children. Blasts could be heard from the
Lebanese border, which is some 12 km (7 miles) from Qusair.
Activists also reported heavy shelling in the town of
Rastan, north of Homs, where rebels have been hiding.
"Residents told me that shelling started early this morning
shortly after helicopters and spotter planes were seen above the
town," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights.
Clashes between Free Syrian Army defectors and Syrian troops
were also reported in Jebel al-Zawiya in Syria's north.
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing
in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests
against Assad's rule sparked an insurrection by army deserters
The government says it is fighting foreign-backed
"terrorists" it blames for killing hundreds of soldiers and
police across the country.
The United Nations says Syrian security forces have killed
more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against the Assad
family's four decade rule began in March last year.
In neighbouring Lebanon, hundreds of soldiers and scores of
military trucks and jeeps blocked off the centre of Beirut early
on Sunday ahead of planned protests for and against Assad, whose
ruling clan are Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Lebanon is mainly made up of Shi'ites, Sunnis and
Christians, and is home to the powerful Shi'ite militant group
Hezbollah, which is backed by Shi'ite Iran.
Sunni Arab states Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been among the
loudest calling for Assad's downfall, and have even suggested
arming Assad's opponents.
"There will be two protests," said a Lebanese soldier in
Beirut who declined to be named.
"The army has created a line of military vehicles to prevent
the two from meeting. We won't allow any violence and we won't
allow them to clash."
Former Syrian ally Turkey said Assad was guilty of "war
crimes" while China, which has so far has backed Assad, said it
was "deeply worrying that the situation in Syria remains grave".
China, which along with Russia, has twice vetoed U.N.
Security Council resolutions condemning Damascus, urged
government and rebels to end the violence and start talks, but
again said it opposed foreign military intervention.
"We oppose anyone interfering in Syria's internal affairs
under the pretext of 'humanitarian' issues," said a foreign
ministry statement carried by Xinhua news agency.
(Writing by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)