UK Politics

David Cameron announces £2m fund to help Syrian civilians

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Media captionFootage purporting to show shelling in Homs continues to emerge

The UK will provide funding for medical supplies and food for 20,000 people affected by fighting in the Syrian city of Homs, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister said the situation in Syria was "appalling" and described what was happening as "butchery".

Speaking alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Cameron said the international community could do more to "get rid of this brutal dictator".

Syrian government troops are trying to dislodge rebels rebels from Homs.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's authorities have responded to anti-government protests - which they blame on "extremists and terrorists" - with overwhelming military force since they began in March 2011.

As Mr Cameron spoke, Syrian troops resumed heavy shelling of the city, activists say, a day after the UN General Assembly called for an end to violence.

Parts of Homs have been battered by mortars and rockets fired by Syrian government troops for nearly two weeks, as they try to dislodge hundreds of rebels from the Free Syrian Army.

The BBC's Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says the passing of the resolution at the UN General Assembly clearly is not affecting events on the ground, but it gave all parties a chance to air their views.

The motion, which was voted for by 137 member states, called on the Syrian authorities "to stop all violence or reprisals immediately, in accordance with the League of Arab States initiative".

Russia and China were among the 12 states who voted against the non-binding resolution. There were also 17 abstentions.

On Friday, France and the UK urged the Syrian opposition to unite and said it needed more international support to resist suppression.

"We cannot bring about a Syrian revolution... if the Syrian revolution does not make an effort to rally together and organise so that we can better help them,'' French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after the bilateral talks.

Mr Cameron said: "We need to take all the action we can to put the maximum pressure on Assad to go, and to stop the butchery that is taking place.

"I want us to go on working, to go on thinking, to go on combining with our allies and go on asking ourselves what more can we do to try and help transition take place in this country, so we can get rid of this brutal dictator and give the Syrian people a chance of peace and stability in the future.

"I am not satisfied that we are taking all the action we need to but it is difficult, it is complicated, and we need to work very hard with our friends, allies and neighbours in the region to make sure we can do everything we can."

The British funding announced today will be channelled through three humanitarian agencies which are active in Syria, but which are not being named in order to avoid the danger of reprisals.

The money will pay for:

  • emergency medical services and supplies for those injured in the violence;
  • basic food rations for more than 20,000 people;
  • household items such as cutlery, pots, blankets and towels for up to 5,500 people forced to flee their homes;
  • bottled water for 2,750 people;
  • restoration of damaged water and sanitation infrastructure for more than 30,000 people.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the situation in Syria was "increasingly horrifying".

He added that the aid announced would "provide immediate and potentially life-saving short-term help for thousands of innocent civilians under attack - but a longer-term solution is urgently needed".