* Syria blocks Red Cross from Baba Amro for third day
* Some suspect army hunting, killing rebels in Baba Amro
* Shelling of border town forces flight to Lebanon
* Protests for and against Syria's Assad held in Beirut
(Refreshes Red Cross quote, adds analyst quote)
By Oliver Holmes and Mohammed Abbas
BEIRUT, March 4 The Red Cross delivered
emergency aid to areas around the battered Baba Amro district of
the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, but was blocked for a third
day from entering the former rebel bastion amid reports of
bloody reprisals by state forces.
Activists reported shelling and other violence across Syria,
sending one of the biggest surges of refugees across the border
into Lebanon in a single day since a revolt against President
Bashar al-Assad began a year ago.
Concerns mounted for civilians left stranded in Baba Amro in
freezing weather with little food, fuel or medicine. Rebels
abandoned their positions there on Thursday after facing almost
a month of near-constant shelling by Syrian forces intent on
crushing the uprising.
Activists said the government was trying to prevent the Red
Cross from witnessing "massacres" by Syrian soldiers hunting
down and killing remaining rebels.
"In all the years that I have known the ICRC in Damascus,
the Syrian government has never let them see torture victims or
the underbelly of the government," said Joshua Landis, a Syria
expert at Oklahoma University. "I don't know why they would
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he had
received "grisly reports" that troops were executing and
torturing people in Homs after insurgents abandoned their
"It's over for tonight. We will try again tomorrow," said
Saleh Dabbakeh, the Damascus-based spokesman for the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), referring to
efforts to get into Baba Amro. He declinined to say why Syrian
forces had blocked their entry.
The ICRC said workers had instead delivered supplies to
areas nearby where many people had taken refuge.
The United Nations' refugee agency said up to 2,000 Syrians
had fled the fighting for neighbouring Lebanon.
"We had similar numbers in April 2011, but the flow of new
arrivals had stabilised since then," United Nations refugee
agency spokeswoman Dana Sleiman said.
Refugees told Reuters of army shelling and gunfire in border
towns. One woman said she and her family had fled the village of
Jusiyah, near Qusair, about 12 km (7 miles) from the border.
"In the morning the shelling started, so we had to leave
towards Lebanon. There were some wounded, but I don't know what
happened to them," said Um Ali, 64.
She sat under a tree with her husband, five sons and a
pregnant daughter-in-law. They had not brought any belongings.
"We don't know what to do," she said.
A doctor on the Lebanese border said around 1,500 Syrians
had crossed into Lebanon.
A Lebanese security source said the Lebanese army had
arrested at least 35 armed Syrian rebels who were trying to
enter his country from Qusair.
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing
in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful pro-democracy
protests sparked an insurrection by army deserters and others.
The government says it is fighting foreign-backed
"terrorists" it blames for killing hundreds of soldiers and
police across the country.
Syrian state television showed images of the corpses of
anti-Assad fighters killed in clashes in the suburbs of the city
of Hama, as well as an array of captured weapons, including arms
it said were U.S. and Israeli-made.
One anti-government activist said the Syrian army had raided
a girls school in Daraya, near Damascus, beating students for
holding an anti-Assad protest and threatening to open fire on
similar demonstrations in future.
In a house in the Douma suburb of Damascus, the activist
told Reuters by Skype that the Syrian army had killed two
defectors and seven other people who had been harbouring them.
Other activists reported government raids in Hama in which
one young man was shot dead, and 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 Syrian troops and Free Syrian Army rebels,
many of them army defectors, were reported in Jebel al-Zawiya in
Syria's north, and activists said government forces had used
tear gas to end an anti-Assad protest of around 1,000 people in
the northern city of Aleppo.
Abdelrahamn also reported an attack on a Syrian army weapons
depot by rebels near Homs on Saturday, killing and wounding up
to 50 Syrian troops. Activists' reports are difficult to verify
independently due to Syrian reporting restrictions.
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.
The Syrian government said in December that "armed
terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police
during the unrest.
Lebanon deployed more troops to its northern border in
response to the violence in Syrian towns nearby, a Reuters
witness said, part of a conflict that risks dragging in regional
powers with rival sectarian interests.
In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, hundreds of soldiers and
scores of military trucks and jeeps blocked off the city centre
during protests for and against Assad, whose ruling clan are
Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Lebanon is home to Shi'ites, Sunnis and Christians, and is
the base of the powerful Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.
Sunni Arab states Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been among the
loudest calling for Assad's downfall, and have even suggested
arming his opponents.
"We sacrifice our blood and souls for you Bashar," chanted a
pro-Assad crowd of about 500 people. Some stepped on photos of
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and threw shoes at a poster of him.
A similar sized anti-Assad crowd sang: "We sacrifice our
blood and souls for you, Homs."
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
reiterated its opposition to 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.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will join Arab
counterparts at a meeting in Cairo this month to discuss the
Syrian crisis, the Arab League said on Sunday, a move that could
indicate Moscow is shifting its stance on the issue.
(Additonal reporting by by Afif Diab on Lebanese border,
Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ayman Samir in Cairo; Writing by
Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Andrew Heavens)