NEW YORK -- Thirteen Syrian activists have been killed in the process of helping wounded foreign journalists trapped in Homs escape to safety over the past week, the international activist group Avaaz has reported.
Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa, a reporter for El Mundo, became the second journalist to escape Homs in the past week, arriving in Lebanon after a treacherous, multi-day journey. His passage comes just a few days after British freelance photographer Paul Conroy was smuggled to Beirut.
Two other French journalists, Le Figaro reporter Edith Bouvier and photographer William Daniels, remain trapped in the deadly city.
The journalists were among several foreigners, and dozens of Syrians, wounded or killed in a massive shelling of a makeshift press center in the embattled Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr. The American reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed in the attack.
According to Avaaz, which has helped facilitate the escapes, all four journalists set out from Homs with a team of local Syrian guides on Sunday night, but were soon after attacked by the Syrian Army.
Three Syrians were killed in this attack, which forced Daniels and Bouvier to return to the field hospital in Baba Amr. Seven more Syrians were killed during the retreat.
Both Espinosa and Conroy managed to continue beyond Homs, but became separated when their party was once again targeted by shells from the Syrian Army, Avaaz said; three more Syrians were killed then.
Espinosa stayed behind to attend to some of the wounded Syrians while Conroy, who was wounded in the legs in the initial press-center attack, continued on to Beirut. It took three more nights of risky travel through the woods and mountains of northern Syria before Espinosa arrived in Beirut.
In videos posted to YouTube last week, Conroy and Edith Bouvier, a French reporter for Le Figaro, pled for the Syrian government to permit them to leave Homs along with other severely wounded Syrians.
The International Committee of the Red Cross spent much of the past week trying to secure safe passage for it and the Syrian Red Crescent to deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to Homs. They recently briefly reached Homs, but pulled back after a truce with the Syrian Army could not be guaranteed.
Late on Wednesday, Syrian troops were said to be moving in on the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs, where 100,000 residents have endured weeks of nearly nonstop shelling.
“That’s it, they just want to finish it,” one activist from Homs told the Financial Times. “What will go on in the next couple of days will be the worst.”
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel hailed the bravery of the Syrian activists who compounded the dangers to their lives in the attempt to smuggle the journalists to safety.
"Thousands of Syrians have chosen to risk jail, torture, and their lives to fight for democracy, and to get the story out," Patel said. "Those journalists went bravely in to tell their story, and that's part of why the Syrians are willing to risk their lives to help them get out."
Patel also said that in the immediate aftermath of last week's strike on the press center, nine Syrians had taken great risks to enter Baba Amr with medical supplies.
"We later found out that seven of them were discovered dead, with their hands tied behind their back and the medical supplies strewn on the ground," Patel said. "They were shot in the back of the head."
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