The battle between the Syrian government and opposition forces in the city of Homs has intensified in the last week. The bloodshed, which on Monday alone saw over 100 people reportedly killed, continues to escalate and is expected to worsen as the army moves into the central areas of Baba Amr on Wednesday.
Among the victims are a number of western journalists, the only independent witnesses remaining in the besieged city.
Media attention began to focus on their plight after the renowned war correspondent Marie Colvin, 56, and French photographer Remi Ochlik, 28, were both killed when a rocket hit their makeshift media center in the middle of Homs last week. The same blast also injured French journalist Edith Bouvier and Colvin's colleague, UK-born photojournalist Paul Conroy. Activists later said the media center had been deliberately targeted, a claim denied by the Syrian military. Repeated attempts to evacuate the remainnig journalists failed, after negotiations between the Syrian government and international parties, including the Red Crescent, failed.
But on Tuesday Conroy was smuggled out of Syria through a gap in the military cordon and had made it safely across the border to Lebanon. Joy at his rescue was, however, tinged with tragedy, after it emerged the daring nighttime mission resulted in the deaths of up to 10 rescuers, all unarmed Syrian activists and volunteers.
As of Wednesday, at least three western journalists remain trapped inside Homs, and with reports of a large scale ground attack underway, fears for their safety continue to grow.
Edith Bouvier, a 31-year-old freelancer sent to cover the conflict for France's Le Figaro. Her plight was highlighted after a video, posted online last Thursday, showed her pleading for help to get out of Syria, complaining of a broken femur sustained in the rocket attack.
I have a broken leg, she said. The femur is broken along its length and laterally too. I need to undergo surgery as soon as possible.
The doctors here have treated us as well as they could but they can't perform surgery. So I need a ceasefire and an ambulance or car in good enough shape to get us out.
Hopes were raised that she had been rescued alongside Conroy after French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday that her nightmare was over. But hours later he retracted the statement.
Her colleague William Daniels, also working for Le Figaro as well as Time magazine, was present during the attack that killed Colvin and Ochlik, but escaped serious injury and remains at an unknown location somewhere in Homs.
According to Daniels' website, the 34-year-old started his career photographing street children in the Philippines, for which he won a Social and Documentary Photography Prize in 2004. He collected several commissions, including a grant from the Lagardere Foundation to document the aftermath of the Tulip revolution in Kyrgyzstan. On the site, he lists his interests as, revolving around social issues and humanitarian concerns mostly focusing on isolated or weakened communities.
A colleague at thr London-based agency Panos Press said they were in contact with Daniels through intermediaries in Syria, but were unwilling to confirm his exact whereabouts due to concerns for his safety.
The last of the three remaining journalists is Spaniard Javier Espinoza. Based out of Beirut, Espinoza has been the Middle East correspondent for Spain's El Mundo newspaper since 2002. His last official contact was a post on his twitter page on 26 February, which showed blood running down a gutter in Baba Amr.
According to an El Mundo profile, Espinosa began his international career covering the Rwandan genocide in 1994. While the vast majority of journalists fled when the slaughter between Hutus and Tutsis erupted, Espinoza stayed behind earning plaudits for his bravery. He was then posted to Mexico where he covered events such as the U.S. intervention in Haiti, and the General Pinochet case in Argentina. He then moved back to Africa, where in 1999 he was kidnapped by rebels in Sierra Leone and held hostage for 48 hours.