A Red Cross relief convoy was poised to enter the battered Baba Amr neighbourhood of the Syrian city of Homs on Friday a day after regime forces overran it, ending a nearly four-week pounding.

More than 20,000 civilians are believed to have been trapped in the district through the prolonged bombardment with a lone doctor reported to be tending to the scores of casualties in a single makeshift clinic.

As rebel fighters pulled out on Thursday in the face of the regime's overwhelmingly superior fire power, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) warned of “barbaric” reprisals against the neighbourhood's residents.

The U.N. rights body appealed to Syria to respect international law after receiving unconfirmed reports of 17 “grisly” executions as regime forces took control of Baba Amr.France announced it was closing its embassy in Damascus, mirroring similar moves by Britain and the United States.

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