Syria lashed out at Saudi Arabia on Saturday, a day after the kingdom’s foreign minister backed the idea of arming the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, accusing Riyadh of becoming “a partner” in the bloodshed in the country.
The sharp riposte from Damascus, Syria, which was published in a state-run newspaper, came as activists said at least 68 people were killed across the country and regime forces pounded rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs. The International Committee of the Red Cross said negotiations resumed Saturday to evacuate from Homs civilians as well as two Western journalists who were wounded in government shelling earlier this week.
The Associated Press reported that the country’s traditionally cold relations with Saudi Arabia have plunged into a deep freeze since the 11-month-old uprising against Assad began. The Sunni power in the region, Saudi Arabia has been a harshly critical of the Assad regime, which is controlled by the minority Alawite sect, and its brutal crackdown against the mostly Sunni opposition.
The Syrian regime’s relentless assault on Homs, which has emerged as the heart of the anti-Assad revolt, entered its fourth week with government shelling killing at least 19 people Saturday. An International Committee of the Red Cross team evacuated 27 people Friday from Homs’ besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr but has so far failed to get out two wounded Western journalists and the bodies of two other reporters killed by government rockets.
ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Saturday that the group and Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society have resumed talks with the government and opposition to continue evacuating all persons in need of help in Baba Amr.
“Until last night, seven wounded persons were evacuated from Baba Amr, as well as 20 women and children,” he said.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry accused gunmen of blocking the evacuation of the wounded journalists. Activists, however, said that French journalist Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro and British photographer Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times refused to leave Baba Amr with the Syrian Red Crescent Society and demanded that they be taken out by the ICRC.