Witnesses of the bloody events in the Syrian city in 1982 speak as protests force open the veil of fear and secrecy.
|In an Al Jazeera exclusive, Jane Ferguson reports from Homs, which residents describe as a “warzone”|
Negotiations at the UN over a resolution aimed at ending the violence in Syria have stalled, as residents in the heart of the uprising began to refer to their country as a “warzone”.
After nearly a year of escalating tensions between Syrian security forces and protesters demanding an end to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, residents of the western city of Homs told Al Jazeera they were under daily attack.
Locals said they face starvation due to dwindling supplies and daily attacks by snipers and mortar fire from forces loyal to the president.
“Actually we’re living in starvation. We’re really hungry – no bread, no food, no drink, no electricity, no water – not anything,” one resident of Homs told Al Jazeera.
“There is nothing. Everything is fighting and bombs. And war. Even if we want to go to the next street we can’t,” he said.
International journalists have been restricted from travelling freely in the country, but Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson was able to enter Homs, which she said resembled a “ghost town”.
“It looks like a ghost town but people are here – hiding. Some venture out to buy whatever food there is. Families conserve every last scrap of break – worried the last supply routes will soon be cut off,” she said.
In a bid to halt the escalating violence, diplomats at the UN Security Council in New York have been debating a draft resolution condemning human rights violations in Syria.
The Arab League has asked the council to endorse an action plan for Syria that it put forward last month.
But negotiations were stalled before further talks on Friday amid concern from Russia and China, long-time allies of Syria, with the contents of the draft document.
Russia has made clear it would veto any UN resolution it finds unacceptable, and block any statement paving the way for foreign military intervention.
The draft, put forward by Morocco, the only Arab member of the council, has been under debate for days. It does not call for Assad to step down, as proposed in the Arab League plan.
Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said on Thursday that the Arab League would not accept any further concessions.
“The version which we have is the minimal which we can accept,” he told Al Jazeera. He said that if Russia did not support the current version, it should use its veto.
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that he was not asking for any more changes to the draft, but declined to answer a question on whether Moscow would veto the resolution.
Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said it seemed that the council had seceded to Russia’s requests.
“Russia has been able to include the phrase “without foreign military intervention”, she said.
“They have taken out paragraphs which said that the Security Council supports transfer of power from President Assad to his deputy, the forming of a unity government, and free and fair elections.”
The diplomatic wrangling came as Syria’s opposition held mass demonstrations in several cities to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre.
Demonstrators gathered on Thursday in memory of the estimated 10,000 to 40,000 people who perished in February 1982 when Hafez al-Assad, the late president and father of the current leader, ordered a fierce assault on the central city to crush a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Activists in Hama poured red dye and paint on the ground and on the city’s centuries-old iconic waterwheels.
They said fire engines were deployed to wash away paint and that troops closed public squares to prevent demonstrations.
Hama has played a major role in the uprising against Assad, which began in March last year.
Mass rallies have been held, resulting in deadly crackdowns which have killed more than 500 people in the city, according to local activists.
What started as a street protest movement has increasingly turned into an armed conflict, with army defectors and civilians taking up arms against the state.
Authorities have blamed the unrest on “armed gangs”.