Syria faces outrage as Homs 'smells of death'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faced growing Western anger on Tuesday for preventing aid from entering a devastated district of Homs and over accusations of human rights abuses, including pictures said to show torture victims at a hospital in the city.

Dozens of men, women and children returned on foot to Baba Amr, passing bullet-pocked and damaged buildings, days after rebel fighters pulled out after a sustained and heavy military assault. The Red Cross was awaiting approval to distribute aid to the devastated district which endured a month of siege.

Residents who fled the district spoke of bodies decomposing under rubble, sewage mixing with litter in the streets, and a campaign of arrests and executions.

“The smell of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies buried under the rubble all the time,” said Ahmad, who escaped to Lebanon. “We saw so much death that at the end the sight of a dismembered body... stopped moving us.”

Despite their chorus of outrage as Homs residents gave more detailed accounts of the siege of Baba Amr, Western leaders have ruled out a Libya-style military intervention in Syria, fearing it could trigger wider conflict in the Middle East.

Calls for action to protect civilians have grown louder as the Alawite-led security apparatus cracked down on protests and an uprising that has its roots in the majority Sunni community.

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