BEIRUT (Reuters) - Makeshift hospitals in besieged opposition areas of the Syrian city of Homs are overflowing with dead and wounded from government bombardments and snipers, according to a report by international monitor Human Rights Watch.
Medical supplies are running out and at least three field hospitals have been hit. Rooms are full of corpses while in the streets, wounded people are bleeding to death as it is too dangerous for rescuers to bring them to safety.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch provided this picture of nearly a week of carnage in Homs from talking to several witnesses inside the city, now the focal point of the 11-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Since the military operation against opposition neighborhoods was launched Friday night, government forces have fired hundreds of shells and mortar bombs, killing more than 300 people and wounding hundreds more, including women and children, it said.
Soldiers have also strafed people from helicopters.
Government forces have taken over Homs University residences to use as a firebase and blockaded areas of the city, preventing people from getting out and food, medicine and other supplies from getting in, according to the report.
“Injured people are dying because we cannot treat them. There are still people in the street who are injured. They are missing body parts. We cannot pull them in because of the shooting. They will die in the street,” it quoted one witness named Karim, a resident of Khalidiya neighborhood, as saying.
Homs, an industrial city in western Syria with a population of nearly a million, is the country’s third largest and has a history stretching back to ancient times.
It has been in the forefront of the uprising against Assad and has seen frequent protests and repression since March.
The latest bout of bloodshed began when security forces at checkpoints and on rooftops opened fire on a protest near the Al-Zahire mosque last Friday evening, according to Hani, a witness from Baba Amro district. Soon after, shelling began.
In Khalidiya, fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army seized a checkpoint and residents took to the streets to celebrate - provoking an intensive barrage that lasted for several hours, witness Samer said.
Wasim said that Monday, Baba Amro, Khalidiya and Wadi Iran were all shelled.
“I could hear the sound of women and children screaming while running on the streets trying to escape the shelling,” he said in the HRW report.
He and some other tried to rescue wounded people but they came under fire as tried to retreat using secret passages. They were forced to stay in hiding and the 10 wounded they had picked up died from loss of blood.
A doctor at al-Waer hospital said medical supplies had run out. Monday, 18 wounded patients, including a 13-year-old child, died of complications in the hospital when the electricity was cut off, he said.
Mahmud, a Baba Amro resident, told Human Rights Watch: “There is no escape or safe passage from the area and there is no safe shelter inside the area from the rockets and shells.
“There is no bread, no medication and no nutritional supplies, and after a field hospital was targeted, we lost several of our medical staff.”
Snipers targeted any moving object, he said.
“Many of the wounded have very serious injuries - they lost their limbs, or eyes, had serious wounds to the body.”
Human Rights Watch said that the indiscriminate shelling of populated areas which resulted in civilian casualties was a serious human rights violation.
“This brutal assault on residential neighborhoods shows the Syrian authorities’ contempt for the lives of their citizens in Homs,” said Anna Neistat, HRW emergencies director.
“Those responsible for such horrific attacks will have to answer for them.”
Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Alastair Macdonald