72 hours under fire: Part 5 #Syria
An unofficial media center is hit by Syrian artillery just two floors above where the CNN team was working.
CNN senior photojournalist Neil Hallsworth films an oil fire in Homs, Syria.
Editor’s note: Watch the full documentary “72 Hours Under Fire” on CNN International on Saturday at 4 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m., and on CNN U.S. on Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Monday at 2 a.m. (All times Eastern)
(CNN) — Intense black smoke billowing from the flames of an oil fire blocks out the sun. A teenage mom with a one-day-old baby seeks shelter in a dimly-lit basement from a barrage of missiles and shells.
Incoming fire smashes through the wall of a house being used as an unofficial media center in Homs, the city that is the focus of anti-regime protests and Syrian efforts to silence them.
The horror of enduring the all-out assault by the Syrian military is brought vividly to life in a CNN documentary airing this weekend.
With the help of local activists, a CNN crew was smuggled into Homs, moving from house to house as the Syrian army fired missiles and tank shells.
For more than a year President Bashar al-Assad’s military had used brutal force to put down the uprising.
Across Syria, protesters demanded change — chanting “down with the regime” but it was Homs — and especially the neighborhood of Baba Amr — that became the epicenter.
Even CNN correspondent Arwa Damon, with her vast experience of reporting from war zones, had reservations about the high-risk job. She said: “I actually wrote a letter home the first time, to my family. And I went to see some very close friends as well, just in case.”
She was joined by Neil Hallsworth, a veteran cameraman who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, and Tim Crockett, a former special forces officer to handle security and who would also become an unofficial stills photographer.
Just getting into Homs was an ordeal that took five days for what would normally be a two-hour drive.
Damon said: “It involves a fairly elaborate process of being moved through farmlands, back roads, trying to avoid the government, ending up in various safe houses. And at every single leg, every single stop, you have a different person who’s responsible to move you on to the next one, someone who knows the details of the lay of the land around you to ensure that they can actually get you through from one point to another.”
For the thousands trapped in Baba Amr, the route was their only lifeline and CNN agreed to keep it secret.
In Homs, there was no frontline meaning there was also nowhere that could be called safe.
Damon said: “It [seems] mostly deserted, most of the buildings have sustained some sort of damage. And then you’ll see a kid peek their head out from a doorway, or you’ll see a man walking in the street carrying an A.K.”
Some of the most constant fire has been on Baba Amr where people are killed or wounded daily, and where two doctors — and one of those was a dentist — are fighting against the odds to help the casualties.
In a makeshift clinic there was a man with head injuries from shrapnel, another whose leg injury was most likely going to lead to an amputation.
The medics say the Syrian military regards the clinic as a target so they have set up in numerous temporary houses around Baba Amr, each with patients and with the doctors moving between them.
But snipers posted on rooftops above the rubble-littered streets made even the shortest of trips treacherous.
Mosques put out messages before the bombardment started, telling people to not live on the upper floors, to try to stay away from windows, and to try to find protective rooms, inside their homes.
In basements used as bunkers, civilians pray the next bomb will miss their home and their loved ones. In one of these bunkers, the CNN crew met a teenager who had given birth the day before.
Her daughter Fatimah was the face of innocence amid the hell of Homs. Her father does not know she’s been born. He left the shelter to get supplies a month ago and has not made it back. And her gran trembled as she explained how two other relatives died.
Virtually everyone in the shelter — about 300 people — had similar horrific stories of violent death.
And it was easy to learn how death could come arbitrarily and suddenly in Homs and how survival was as much luck as anything else.
Working in a home that had become an unofficial media center for the few Western journalists that have made it into Homs, a rocket slammed into the building just two floors up.
Also in Baba Amr was Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin who would be killed alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik just a few days later.
Throughout Baba Amr, word was spreading that a ground offensive by the Syrian military was imminent.
And for CNN it was becoming too dangerous to let Damon, Hallsworth and Crockett stay.
Damon said: “It is fundamentally unfair that we live in a world where we can go film this, report on it, and leave, knowing that the people we’ve left behind’s suffering is going to continue. Feeling as if we should’ve done more, we could’ve done more.”
Hundreds of civilians are believed to have died in the siege of Baba Amr. At least three activists involved in getting video out of Baba Amr have been killed.
At the end of February, the Syrian military broke the resistance of Baba Amr. Opposition activists claim the military carried out summary executions.
Regime forces continue to bombard other areas that oppose Assad’s rule.
Two journalists from the French Figaro paper say the Al-Assad regime troops are targeting the media centre in the besieged Baba Amro district
French journalist Edith Bouvier is carried on a stretcher after her arrival on a government plane at Villacoublay military airport near Paris.(Photo: Reuters)
AFP, Saturday 3 Mar 2012
Syrian forces seemed to be directly targeting journalists in Homs, wounded French reporter Edith Bouvier and photographer William Daniels said Saturday, after escaping the besieged city.
“There were at least five successive explosions, very near. We really had the impression that we were directly targeted,” the Figaro daily quoted the pair as saying after their return to Paris Friday.
The rocket attack on 22 February in the flashpoint Baba Amr area of Homs killed French photographer Remi Ochlik as well as veteran Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, and wounded Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy.
Paris prosecutors on Friday opened a murder probe into the attack. The bodies of Ochlik and Colvin were meanwhile formally identified in Damascus by the French and Polish ambassadors.
Le Figaro reporter Bouvier sustained multiple fractures to her leg from the rocket attack on a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr.
Bouvier, 31 and Daniels, 34, were smuggled out of Syria to Beirut by activists and were greeted by relatives and French President Nicolas Sarkozy when they arrived Friday at a French airbase near Paris.
The two Figaro journalists recounted their harrowing experience from the time on 22 February when Syrian rockets began hitting the “press centre”.
“The Syrian activists who were with us, were used to these bombardments and understood the danger immediately. They told us that we must leave right away,” the paper quoted the Bouvier and Daniels as saying.
Colvin and Ochlik were the first to leave. A missile landed in front of the press centre.
“The explosion was massive, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were practically at the point of impact. They were killed on the spot,” the Figaro reported.
The injured Bouvier couldn’t move her leg. “I screamed” and Syrian insurgent fighters took the journalists to a field hospital in a nearby house.
The International Committee of the Red Cross made some attempt at evacuating those remaining, but were unable to get the Western journalists out as the Syrian regime forces carried out the assault that eventually led to the rebels’ withdrawal.
The two French journalists were trapped for days, even after members of the rebel Free Syrian Army managed to get the wounded Conroy and Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa out of the country and into Lebanon.
“We didn’t know anything… was the way blocked? Were the Syrian troops coming? I really wanted to flee, before remembering that I was immobilised,” said Bouvier who was eventually moved out on a stretcher.
Their exact route out remains a secret, though the two French journalists recounted how they were sheltered by locals along the way “despite the risks”.
Their rescuers also braved rain and snow along the mountain roads, changing vehicles several times.
“They really put themselves in danger for us, they did everything for us,” said Bouvier.
They eventually reached Lebanon late Thursday — the day Baba Amr was retaken by government forces — and were repatriated to France the following day.
Sarkozy, who announced Friday that Paris would close its embassy in Damascus to denounce President Bashar al-Assad’s “scandalous” repression, paid homage to the journalists on their arrival.
He praised a “chivalrous” Daniels for staying with Bouvier in the Homs suburb of Baba Amr during days of heavy regime bombardment.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Daniels hailed the people of Homs, saying: “All of Baba Amr supported us. They treated us like kings. We were in one of the most protected houses. These people are heroes who are being massacred.”
His eyes welling up with tears, Daniels added: “Those who saved our lives are surely dead, although I don’t know. … It was nine days of non-stop nightmare with our hopes crashing over a silly detail just about every day.”
An ambulance parked on the tarmac took Bouvier under police escort to a military hospital for treatment for the broken leg she suffered during the deadly bombardment.
Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer who died alongside Marie Colvin in Homs. Photograph: Lucas Dolega/AP
The Observer, Sunday 26 February 2012
The media centre in the Homs suburb of Baba Amr is nothing more than a family house. Once it had four storeys and a satellite dish on the roof. Reporters, photographers and cameramen had been forced to move there after their previous bolthole came under attack.
Two weeks ago, the top of the house was reduced to rubble during a visit by a CNN television crew, who had placed their own dishes there to broadcast live footage. The assault continued until the dishes were knocked down.
If other evidence were needed that the building had been targeted, before the attack last week that led to the deaths of the Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French photographer Rémi Ochlik, it was supplied by another of the group that travelled to Homs with them, Jean-Pierre Perrin, who described how the building’s own dish had been peppered with sniper rounds.
Even after their deaths, the regime has continued to attack Colvin and Ochlik. Footage was shown on state television on Saturday of their bodies, accusing them of being “spies.”
The regime of Bashar al-Assad has learned the lessons of the Arab spring when it comes to dealing with the media – both citizen journalists and international outlets. As the Committee to Protect Journalists noted in a 2011 report, the regime quickly “enforced an effective media blackout” as soon as the protests began last March.
It banned, arrested and expelled international journalists and detained local reporters who tried to cover the protests.
It disabled mobile phones, landlines, electricity, and the internet in cities where the protests broke out, and used violence to extract the passwords of social media sites from journalists, allowing the Syrian electronic army, a pro-government online group, to hack the sites and post pro-regime comments. “In April,” the report continues, “al-Jazeera suspended its Damascus bureau after several of its journalists were harassed and received threats.
Three days after the brutal assault of the famed cartoonist Ali Ferzat in August, the government passed a new media law that ‘banned’ the imprisonment of journalists and allowed greater freedom of expression. It followed this by jailing several journalists. In November, cameraman Ferzat Jarban was the first journalist to be killed in Syria in connection with his work since the committee began keeping detailed records in 1992.
If Jarban was the first, he has not been the last. Gilles Jacquier, a French cameraman, was killed in Homs in January, while on a government sponsored press trip, a killing first blamed on opposition fighters but later blamed on the regime by two Swiss colleagues who accused the soldiers accompanying them of leading them into an “elaborate trap”.
The regime went further. Those who had entered the country before, such as Anthony Shadid of the New York Times – who collapsed and died in Syria a few days before Colvin’s death – were denounced on Syrian state television as “spies”, while those visiting Homs illegally were warned that they would be killed by the regime.
Last week, all the evidence now suggests that the regime delivered on its promise, targeting not just the latest group of foreign reporters to visit Homs but also Rami al-Sayyed, a citizen journalist whose video link to Baba Amr had kept news of events in the city in the forefront of the world’s attention.
The war in Syria has become not simply a conflict between a brutal regime and those who want to see it fall, but a war on information itself: a calculated desire to destroy the fractured opposition’s centres and erase all knowledge of what happened.
On Friday the difficulties of reporting from Homs were reinforced in a series of tweets by Javier Espinosa of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, who survived uninjured in the attack that killed and injured four colleagues, including Colvin, last week. He described drones flying overhead guiding the bombing of the suburb, saying: “I would love to interview who is launching the mortars right now. What he thinks when he is sending tons of shrapnel to kill people.”
Asked to describe the drone, Espinosa said it was too dangerous to “get my head from where I am hiding”.
Assad’s war on the media, like that on his people, is unlikely to be successful in the long run. Journalists may have been pushed out of Syria, but it seems certain they will return yet more determined to tell the world what is happening.
As for the regime, Assad’s ferocious tactics may be making short-term gains but in the long term the outcome is most likely to be the fall of his regime, the Chatham House thinktank said in the Political Outlook for Syria, a report last week. The question now is not if but when. And also in what circumstances.
As the “Friends of Syria” meeting ended in disarray in Tunis on Friday, it was not with suggestions about how to bring the violence to an end but amid threats from two key regional actors – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – who said that they supported military escalation against Assad. In doing so they have raised the terrifying spectre of a proxy war with Shia Iran, Assad’s remaining regional ally, now that even Hamas has formally backed the uprising.
The remarks of the two countries – including a Saudi statement, before its delegation walked out of the conference, that arming the opposition was an “excellent idea” – came only hours after the disclosure by rebel sources that they were already receiving foreign arms and equipment.
The Saudi threat to arm the opposition has come amid increasing rhetoric from the US – including the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s description of Russia’s blocking tactics as “despicable”. In a subtle shift in policy, US officials, quoted by the Washington Post, said that “steps toward arming the opposition were likely to become a reality the [US] would not oppose if the Syrian leader does not yield.”
The Saudi intervention on Friday should not, perhaps, have been surprising. The day before, in a telephone call, King Abdullah told the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev in the bluntest terms that discussion on the issue was “useless”, and criticised Russia for not co-ordinating with Arab states before vetoing a UN security council resolution. All of which appears to confirm the view of some regional analysts that Saudi Arabia decided some time ago that intervention was inevitable.
Another challenge facing the regime is not direct intervention by neighbours but an ever-growing isolation. The regime has been told that it is no longer welcome at the next Arab league summit in Baghdad. The move by Hamas, which for long kept its political bureau in Damascus, meant that there was now no Sunni group or government allied with the regime.
Russia too – despite its objection to intervention and its veto – in recent days has shown increasing frustration, calling for a ceasefire, although it has continued to supply weapons.
Few even among the closest observers of Syria have any certainty, however, of the endgame. The Chatham House report lists a menu of potential scenarios, from the survival of a deeply “embattled and unpopular” regime for several years, to a coup of Alawite officers against the Assad family, to various kinds of collapse that include a Yemen-style implosion.
And if the authors are cautious about predicting an outcome, they are deeply sceptical too about the opposition Syrian National Council. Britain and other governments recognised the council in Tunis on Friday as a “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
But the authors describe the group as “not necessarily representative of Syrians” and report concern that “it has focused excessively on wooing international support rather than building domestic strength”. Overall, the message is clear, reinforced by the fallout from Tunis: the outcome in Syria is unpredictable and likely to be extremely messy.
None of this will bring comfort to civilians trapped in Syria by the fighting, or the two injured journalists, Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times and Frenchwoman Edith Bouvier, as they await evacuation from Homs.
While the Red Cross evacuated a small number of wounded women and children from the city on Friday, and was in negotiations on Saturday to bring out more, the attacks continued as the military took its bombardment of rebel-held Baba Amr into a fourth week.
Nadir al-Husseini, an opposition activist in the city, described desperate conditions in Baba Amr. “It would be good if they [the Red Cross] could bring in some aid. But even if they brought us some medical supplies how much would it really help?” he told the Reuters news agency. “We have hundreds of wounded people crammed into houses all around the neighbourhood. People are dying from lack of blood because we just don’t have the capability of treating everyone. I don’t think any amount they could bring in would really help.”
The description of conditions in Baba Amr, which has been hit by Russian-made 240mm mortars – the world’s largest – came as others in the city condemned the Tunis meeting.
“They [world leaders] are still giving opportunities to this man who is killing us and has already killed thousands of people,” said Husseini. “I’ve completely lost faith in everyone but God. But in spite of that, I know we will continue this uprising. We’ll die trying before we give up,” he said. “The shelling is just like it was yesterday. We have had 22 days of this. The women and children are all hiding in basements.”
“No one would dare try to flee the neighbourhood, that is instant death. You’d have to get past snipers and soldiers. Then there is a trench that surrounds our neighbourhood and a few others. Then you have to go past more troops.”
For now the suffering of Homs continues without an end in sight.
Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik died in Homs last week, bringing the death toll of journalists in Syria this year alone to six.
In 2011 at least 66 journalists were killed around the world as a result of their work, a 16% rise on the previous year, with 17 deaths among reporters covering the Arab spring uprisings. Ten deaths in Pakistan marked the heaviest loss in a single country. Libya claimed five lives, including award-winning British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, and al-Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber.
Putin’s Russia is an increasingly dangerous place for journalists with extreme limits on freedom of expression. Forty-nine have died since 1992, including Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in 2006.
The most deadly country for journalists in the past 10 years has been Iraq, where 151 have been killed since 1992. Coming a bloody second is the Philippines, where 72 have been murdered. Covering human rights as a journalist is more deadly than covering crime, war or corruption.
Street protests in other countries such as Greece, Belarus, Uganda, Chile and the US were responsible for a surge in arrests, from 535 in 2010 to 1,044 in 2011, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Ethiopia was criticised last year for jailing two Swedish journalists covering the insurgency on its border with Somalia. The country is causing increasing international concern with its harsh policies towards its own press.
Nine online journalists were killed for their work in 2011, including Mexican reporter MarÍa Elizabeth MacÍas Castro, whose decapitated body was found near Nuevo Laredo, with a note stating she had been murdered for reporting on social media websites. Mexico has at least 11 journalists reported missing, feared dead.
Source : Committee to Protect Journalists
The regime knew the journalists were there, 3 more were injured. The regime used multiple missile launchers on the media centre killing 7 Syrians too in the blast and there is little medical aid for the injured journalists or Syrians. It was targeted so the media centre is now known. The type of weapons used were those being used for 19 days straight and journalists have come and left and witnessed the barbaric attack on the neighbourhood.
The regime has not stopped using missiles and actually used toxic gases this evening as it stepped up its attack on Baba Amr totally unbothered the foreign journalists will report the crimes to the outside world.
Marie yesterday spoke to many outlets and said how she saw a baby die, how the Syrian government lies, how the babies chest went up and down until he died as there was no way out or medical aid. She said she didn’t expect to survive as the situation was the worst, and she said this is the worst she had seen, though she has covered many wars.
What can I say except…The worlds heroes can be found in Baba Amr…
Nicolas Sarkozy has said the journalists in Homs were ‘assassinated’. Here, Peter Beaumont assesses the evidence
Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed in shelling in Syria on Wednesday. Photograph: AP
Following the deaths of Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times and Remi Ochlik, a freelance French photographer, there have been claims that they were deliberately targeted, including an allegation by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, that they were “assassinated” in an attack that injured several other journalists.
What is the evidence that they were deliberately fired on?
Most of the evidence of a deliberate attack comes from French journalist Jean-Pierre Perrin, who was also in the Homs suburb of Bab Amr. He described in Liberation how the house being used as a press centre had been “evacuated” after being targeted before. According to Perrin, evidence of this was also visible in the fact that its satellite antenna had been hit many times by snipers. He also described how the journalists in the city were warned several days before the fatal incident that they would be killed if they were caught, as well as suspicions that their communications may have been intercepted and their reports read by the regime.
In a separate interview, Perrin also told the Telegraph: “A few days ago we were advised to leave the city urgently and we were told: ‘If they [the Syrian army] find you, they will kill you’. I then left the city with [Colvin] but she wanted to go back when she saw that the major offensive had not yet taken place.” He added his view that the Syrians were “fully aware” that the press centre was broadcasting direct evidence of crimes against humanity, including the murdering of women and children.
Is there any other evidence that the regime is targeting those involved in telling the story in Homs?
As well as Colvin and Remi, a prominent citizen journalist, Rami al-Sayyed, was also killed the day before. In addition, a group of activists trained by the organisation Avaaz, including several medical volunteers attempting to reach the press centre and two other citizen journalists, were found executed with their hands tied near Bab Amr after trying to reach the injured and dead reporters.
CNN staff, who had used the same media centre in an earlier visit to Homs, have indicated that they believe the Syrian military targeted their dishes on the roof with artillery fire.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said the Assad regime appears to have a policy of intimidation against journalists to enforce a news blackout, a policy it believes has become more violent. It claims: “By controlling local news reports and expelling or denying entry to dozens of foreign journalists, the Syrian government has sought to impose a blackout on independent news coverage since the country’s uprising began almost a year ago, CPJ research shows. But along with the intensity of the conflict, the dangers to the press have risen dramatically in recent months – both for independent citizen journalists and the international journalists who have smuggled themselves into Syria at extremely high risk.”
Is there any physical evidence of a direct attack?
The journalists were in an area that was being subjected to indiscriminate fire and rocket fire, which can be extremely inaccurate. Activists, however, claim that since landlines into the city were cut, Syrian forces have been firing deliberately on locations where there was a mobile or satellite signal – a claim it is not possible to verify.
Syrian gunners have pounded the opposition stronghold where veteran American-born war correspondent Marie Colvin chronicled her last dispatch, just hours before an intense morning barrage killed her and a French photojournalist.
Their deaths were two of 74 reported Wednesday in Syria.
“I watched a little baby die today,” Marie Colvin told the BBC from the embattled city of Homs on Tuesday in one of her final reports.
“Absolutely horrific, a two-year old child had been hit,” added Ms Colvin, who worked for Britain’s Sunday Times. “They stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest and the doctor said, ‘I can’t do anything.’ His little tummy just kept heaving until he died.”
Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik were among a group of journalists who had crossed into Syria and were sharing accommodations with activists, raising speculation that government forces targeted the makeshift media center, although opposition groups had previously described the shelling as indiscriminate. At least two other Western journalists were wounded.
Hundreds of people have died in weeks of siege-style attacks on Homs that have come to symbolize the desperation and defiance of the nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The Syrian military appears to be stepping up assaults to block the opposition from gaining further ground and political credibility with the West and Arab allies. On Wednesday, helicopter gunships reportedly strafed mountain villages that shelter the rebel Free Syrian Army, and soldiers staged door-to-door raids in Damascus, among other attacks.
The bloodshed and crackdowns brought some of the most galvanizing calls for the end of Assad’s rule.
“That’s enough now. The regime must go,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy after his government confirmed the deaths of Colvin, 56, and Ochlik, 28.
The US and other countries have begun to cautiously examine possible military aid to the rebels. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heads to Tunisia for a meeting Friday of more than 70 nations to look at ways to assist Assad’s opponents, which now include hundreds of defected military officers and soldiers.
“This tragic incident is another example of the shameless brutality of the Assad regime,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the killing of the journalists.
In Saudi Arabia, the state news agency described King Abdullah scolding Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - one of Assad’s few remaining allies - for joining China in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution this month condemning the violence.
But even Moscow said the ongoing bloodshed adds urgency for a cease-fire to allow talks between his regime and opponents.
Washington had strongly opposed arming anti-Assad forces, fearing it could bring Syria into a full-scale civil war. Yet the mounting civilian death tolls - activists reported at least 74 across Syria on Wednesday - has brought small but potentially significant shifts in US strategies. It remains unclear, however, what kind of direct assistance the US would be willing to provide.
The toppling of Assad also could mark a major blow to Iran, which depends on Damascus as its main Arab ally and a pathway to aid Iran’s proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could take the country down a dangerous path,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “But we don’t rule out additional measures if the international community should wait too long and not take the kind of action that needs to be taken.”
The UN estimates that 5,400 people have been killed in repression by the Assad regime against a popular uprising that began 11 months ago. That figure was given in January and has not been updated. Syrian activists put the death toll at more than 7,300. Overall figures cannot be independently confirmed because Syria keeps tight control on the media.
On Wednesday, the UN said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would dispatch Valerie Amos, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, to Syria to assess the situation. No date was set.
Twenty of the deaths reported on Wednesday were in Homs, where resistance forces include breakaway soldiers. Homs has drawn comparisons to the Libyan city of Misrata, which withstood withering attacks last year by troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
“It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and burst of gunfire,” Colvin wrote in what would be her last story published Feb 19. “There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember.”
She described shrinking supplies of rice, tea and cans of tuna “delivered by a local sheik who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket.”
“On the lips of everyone was the question, ‘Why have we been abandoned by the world?’” she wrote.
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.
Amateur video posted online shows the two injured journalists in a makeshift clinic. The French journalist, Bouvier had her left leg tied from the thigh down in a cast. A doctor in the video explains that she needs emergency medical care. Conroy appears in the video and the doctors say he has deep gashes in his left leg.
In one tragic image, a man with a bandaged head is shown mourning his son, who was purportedly killed by government shelling in Homs on Saturday. The video was released by activists Wednesday and the details could not be confirmed. Colvin described seeing a two-year-old child killed on Tuesday and it did not appear to be related to that video.
A Homs-based activist, Omar Shaker, said the journalists were killed when several rockets hit a garden of a house used by activists and journalists in the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr. Shaker said tanks and artillery began intensely shelling at 6.30 am and was continuing hours later. He said the room used by journalists was hit around 10 am.
Amateur video posted online by activist showed what they claimed were bodies of the two journalists in the middle of a heavily damaged house. It said they were of the journalists. One of the dead was wearing what appeared to be a flak jacket.
The intense shelling in parts of Homs - with blasts occurring sometimes just a few seconds apart - appeared to have had no clear pattern over the past week, hitting homes and streets randomly. Some have suggested that the house used by the journalists and activists was pinpointed by Syrian gunners, perhaps by following the signals from satellite phones and other communication equipment.
The French culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, claimed the journalists were “pursued” as they tried to find cover but he did not elaborate. A campaigner for online global activist group Avaaz, Alice Jay, said the group was “directly targeted.”
Another Avaaz activist, Alex Renton, alleged that seven Syrians trying to reach Baba Amr with medical supplies and a respirator were found shot to death with their hands tied behind their back. Two other activists, including a foreign paramedic, traveling with the seven are missing, he added. The claims could not be immediately confirmed.
Many foreign journalists have been sneaking into Syria illegally in the past months with the help of smugglers from Lebanon and Turkey. Although the Syrian government has allowed some journalists into the country their movement is tightly controlled by Information Ministry minders.
Colvin, of East Norwich, NY, was a veteran foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times for the past two decades. She was instantly recognisable for an eye patch worn after being wounded covering conflicts in Sri Lanka in 2001.
Colvin said she would not “hang up my flak jacket” even after that injury.
“So, was I stupid? Stupid I would feel writing a column about the dinner party I went to last night,” she wrote after the attack. “Equally, I’d rather be in that middle ground between a desk job and getting shot, no offense to desk jobs
Ochlik, who had set up a photo agency IP3 Press, won first prize in the general news category of the prestigious 2012 World Press Photo contest for his 12-photograph series titled “Battle For Libya.”
“I just arrived in Homs, it’s dark,” Ochlik wrote to Paris Match correspondent Alfred de Montesquiou on Tuesday. “The situation seems very tense and desperate. The Syrian army is sending in reinforcements now and the situation is going to get worse - from what the rebels tell us.”
“Tomorrow, I’m going to start doing pictures,” he added.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the killings of the journalists, calling them an “unacceptable escalation in the price that local and international journalists are being forced to pay” in Syria.
A statement by Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said there was “no information” about Colvin, Ochlik and other foreign journalists in Syriawho entered without official permission, the state-run news agency SANA reported. It warned all foreign journalists to come forward to “regularize their status.”
In London, British diplomats summoned Syria’s ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, asking Syrian officials to facilitate immediate arrangements for the repatriation of the journalists’ bodies and for help with the medical treatment of the British journalist injured in the attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no information that the bodies of the two slain journalists had been carried out of Homs.
On Tuesday, a Syrian sniper killed Rami al-Sayyed, a prominent activist in Baba Amr who was famous for posting online videos from Homs, colleagues said.
On Jan 11, award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed in Homs. The 43-year-old correspondent for France-2 Television was the first Western journalist to die since the uprising began in March. Syrian authorities have said he was killed in a grenade attack carried out by opposition forces - a claim questioned by the French government, human rights groups and the Syrian opposition.
Last week, New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid died of an apparent asthma attack in Syria after he sneaked in to cover the conflict.
Elsewhere in Syria, the military intensified attacks.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, a main base of the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that Syrian military helicopters fitted with machine guns strafed the village of Ifis. Syrian combat helicopters are primarily Russian-made, though they also have a number of French choppers.
Another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, said troops conducted raids in the Damascus district of Mazzeh district and the suburb of Jobar, where dozens of people were detained. In Jobar, the group said troops broke down doors of homes and shops and set up checkpoints.
The group also said troops backed by tanks stormed the southern village of Hirak and conducted a wave of arrests.
In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, some anti-Assad protesters at a Syria-Bahrain Olympic qualifying football match waved the rebel flag and threw shoes at a small group of pro-regime supporters.