Red Cross evacuates wounded in Homs, Syria

In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 image, a destroyed Syrian military tank is seen in front of a Syrian rebel checkpoint in Homs. AP Photo/Local Coordination Committees in Syria

BEIRUT - A Red Cross spokesman says the group has evacuated nearly 30 people from a besieged neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs to a hospital elsewhere in the city.

Hicham Hassan said Friday seven were taken from the neighborhood of Baba Amr in southeast Homs to the al-Amin hospital. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) later said that an additional 20 people had been evacuated from Baba Amro.

ICRC chief spokeswoman Carla Haddad said she hoped the operation would continue Saturday. But two wounded foreign journalists, whose plight has captured international attention, were not among those evacuated, Haddad said.

The effort to evacuate the reporters -- who were injured in a government attack that killed American war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik -- is part of a wider international push to bring aid to people in the areas hardest hit by Syria's efforts to quash the uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule.

Hicham Hassan of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that the ICRC and its local Syrian branch have been working in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs since Friday afternoon.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent team was "negotiating with both Syrian authorities and opposition in an attempt to evacuate all persons in need of assistance with no exception," he said, meaning local residents and foreign journalists.

French journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels have asked for help leaving the embattled city after Bouvier was wounded in shelling Wednesday that killed Colvin and Ochlik. British photographer Paul Conroy also was wounded in the attack.

International efforts to end the crisis are also trying to help civilians trapped in embattled areas.

The Syrian uprising, which began last March with protests in some of Syria's impoverished hinterlands, is evolving into one of the most violent of the Arab Spring. Assad's security forces have used extreme force against protesters, and the opposition is increasingly taking up arms.

The U.N. said last month that 5,400 people had been killed. Hundreds more have died since. Activists put the number at more than 7,300, but overall figures are impossible to confirm independently.

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The rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr in the city of Homs is one such area.

The journalists were struck when a barrage of government rockets on Wednesday hit a makeshift media center that was being used by activists and foreign reporters who had sneaked into Homs.

One video posted on YouTube Thursday showed Bouvier lying on a hospital gurney with a white cast stretching from her left ankle to her thigh. Conroy is on a nearby bed, with white bandages around his left thigh and calf. The video says he was injured by shrapnel from the rocket attack.

In another video, Bouvier is covered with a blanket and lying on what appears to be a couch. She says her leg is broken in two places and that she needs an operation that local medics cannot perform.

"I need, as soon as possible, a cease-fire and a medically equipped car in good condition to drive us to Lebanon," she says.

Daniels, who is uninjured, stands at her side and pleads for their swift evacuation.

"It is difficult here. We don't have electricity. We don't have much to eat. The bombs continue to fall," he said, adding that they only have Internet access in a dangerous place on the neighborhood's edge.

A boom is heard outside as he speaks.

It was unclear which of the videos was recorded first and if the journalists have moved since. It is also unclear where the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik are. The day they died, activists posted a video of what they said were the reporters' bodies lying in the bombed-out media center.

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