Two western journalists among 57 killed in Syria
BEIRUT A FRENCH photojournalist and a prominent American war correspondent working for a British newspaper were killed on Wednesday by Syrian shelling of the opposition stronghold Homs as President Bashar al Assad’s regime escalated its attacks on rebel bases by strafing from helicopter gunships, activists said.
Weeks of withering barrages on the central city of Homs have failed to drive out opposition factions that include rebel soldiers who fled Assad’s forces.
Hundreds have died in the siege and the latest deaths further galvanised international pressure on Assad, who appears intent on widening his military crackdowns despite the risk of pushing Syria toward full-scale civil war.
“That’s enough now, the regime must go,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy after his government confirmed the journalists’ deaths.
French spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse identified those killed as French photojournalist Remi Ochlik and American reporter Marie Colvin, who was working for Britain’s Sunday Times.
France’s Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, said the attacks show the “increasingly intolerable repression” by Syrian forces. French Communication Minister Frederic Mitterrand said of the journalists killed: “It’s abominable.” Syrian activists said at least two other Western journalists French reporter Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times were wounded in Wednesday’s shelling, which claimed at least 57 lives.
The Syrian military has intensified its attacks on Homs in the past few days, aiming to retake rebel-held neighbourhoods that have become powerful symbols of resistance to Assad’s rule.
For the government in Damascus, Homs is a critical battleground to maintain its control of Syria’s third-largest city and keep more rebel pockets from growing elsewhere.
In the northwestern restive province of Idlib, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that Syrian army helicopters fitted with machine guns opened fire on the village of Ifis. Idlib is a main base of the rebel Free Syrian Army.