The Red Cross was preparing to enter the former Syrian rebel stronghold of Baba Amro in the city of Homs for the first time Friday, as a Syrian official declared the area had been cleansed and the opposition spoke of a massacre in the war-torn district.
After a siege lasting 26 days, opposition fighters were finally driven out of the area Thursday when President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched a final assault on the beleaguered city.
It was also reported that two French journalists who had been stranded in Homs finally left Thursday.
A video posted online appeared to show the bodies of two other journalists -- American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik -- being buried in Homs.
As rebel forces crept out of the city Thursday, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) warned of a massacre in the district, adding Syrian forces had hunted down and killed fighters who stayed behind to cover their comrades' tactical retreat, the National newspaper in Abu Dhabi reported.
We have positive indications from the Syrian authorities to go in. We are ready to enter Baba Amro to evacuate first the sick and wounded and to take food and medical supplies, Samar al-Kadi, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Reuters.
She added that a convoy of seven trucks was on its way to the snow-covered city.
Footage from inside the bombed-out Baba Amro enclave showed residents enduring freezing weather, without food or medical supplies.
Growing international pressure on Assad to halt the violence resulted Thursday in a rare unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council of the violence in Syria. The 15-member council, including previous holdouts Russia and China, demanded that the U.N. humanitarian-aid chief be granted Immediate and unhindered access to the country.
Also Thursday, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul told Reuters that Russia and Iran would have little choice but to join international diplomatic efforts for Assad's removal.
I think in time Russia will see its support has been abused by the Syrian regime. They will recognize this fact when they see the heavy weapons being used against the people in Syria. That is not very tolerable, not even for Russia, Gul said.