Human Rights chief concerned about civilians caught in siege in Homs, Syria

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Smoke drifts into the sky from buildings and houses hit by shelling in Homs, Syria (June 2012). [UN Photo/David Manyua]

The UN Human Rights High Commissioneris concerned about the impact of a major offensive in the Syrian city of Homs.

In a statement on Friday, Navi Pillay cited reports received by her office concerning heavy shelling in the Al-Khaldiya neighbourhood since the early hours of that morning.

The initiative had been launched in late June by government forces and affiliated militias to retake several opposition-controlled districts in the city, according to the statement.

Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said although the number of casualties was unknown, as many as 4,000 civilians were trapped due to the fighting.

"The siege began some 13 months ago but it has escalated since June 28. Out of 16 residential districts affected by the ongoing siege, shelling and ground attacks in Homs and the surrounding area, Al-Khaldiya and Baba Houd districts appear to be the worst hit. Recent reports suggest that armed opposition groups are operating inside those residential areas, thereby increasing the risk for civilians."

The Human Rights High Commissioner also called for all parties in Syria to respect their obligations under international law, avoid civilian casualties and allow trapped civilians to leave without fear of persecution or violence.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’16″

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