The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross met with Syrian government ministers in Damascus on Tuesday to demand access to wounded, displaced and hungry civilians.
I am determined to see the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent expand their presence, range and scope of activities to address the needs of vulnerable people, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.
This will be a key element of my talks with the Syrian officials.''
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has already committed to a peace plan drawn up by United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan that requires swift and full humanitarian access and for the government to begin withdrawing its troops from cities by April 10.
Annan's six-point proposal also calls for talks between the government and opposition to start as soon as the ceasefire takes place, and also for the provision of media freedoms.
But the Red Cross is not willing to wait a week to see if Assad will hold true to his word. In order to get immediate assistance to civilians in embattled areas, the ICRC has proposed daily two-hour ceasefires. The government has repeatedly denied the Red Cross access to certain neighborhoods in Homs and elsewhere, but Kellenberger is persistent.
A daily pause in the hostilities is essential in order to evacuate wounded people and deliver aid if and when the fighting intensifies,” the Red Cross chief said, according to the New York Times.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem pledged that the government would provide the Red Cross with everything it needed to ensure the mission's success and to foster cooperation between the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Agence France-Presse reported.
But as Muallem made his promise, Syrian troops shelled targets in Homs and in the town of Zabadani, according to activists who said that Assad was attempting to weaken the opposition before the ceasefire deadline. This would shore up the government's power before negotiations if Assad does adhere to Annan's plan, which the opposition doesn't expect to happen.
The regime shows no signs of stopping. There are people being shelled in Zabadani right now, opposition member Mortadha al-Rashid told Reuters. Where are Kofi Annan's words? Because we have never seen them on the streets.
Anti-government fighters also stepped up their attacks on Tuesday, clashing with regime troops in northern Idlib province. Three soldiers were killed in separate attacks around the region, and the home of a state military director of logistics in Aleppo was raided.
Fighting also broke out in the Dera'a region in the south, where activists say the government sent in army reinforcements overnight and burned down at least a dozen houses.
As part of the regime's campaign to starve the people, troops are raiding homes, destroying food stocks and equipment. They go into bakeries and destroy the dough. There are 15-hour power cuts a day, activist Sayyed Mahmud told the AFP.
As part of Annan's peace plan, the United Nations said an advance team of ceasefire monitors will arrive in Syria within the next 48 hours, although the main deployment of 200 to 250 unarmed observers has yet to be approved by the Security Council.