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Wounded photographer spirited out of Syria

A wounded British photographer who had been trapped in the besieged Syrian city of Homs was spirited safely into Lebanon on Tuesday in a risky journey that killed 13 rebels who helped him escape the relentless shelling and gunfire.

The harrowing ordeal of British photographer Paul Conroy, who was wounded with a French colleague last week by government rockets that killed two others, has drawn focus to the siege of Homs, which has emerged as the center of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hundreds have been killed in the city, parts of which the army has surrounded and shelled daily for more than three weeks. Many have died while venturing outside to forage for food, and activists have posted videos online of homes reduced to rubble and alleyways rendered no-go zones by snipers.

Conroy's escape was the first sign of relief for a group of Western journalists who sneaked into Syria illegally and reached the embattled Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr only to find themselves trapped.

Government rockets bombarded the makeshift media center they shared with activists last week, killing two of them and injuring Conroy and French reporter Edith Bouvier. Conroy and Bouvier later appeared in activist videos lying on makeshift hospital beds, pleading for help.

Conroy crossed the border into neighboring Lebanon after leaving Homs on Sunday evening, according to the global activist group Avaaz, which said it organized the evacuation with local activists.

The group said 35 Syrians volunteered to help get the journalists out, and 13 were killed in the operation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy retracted an earlier statement that Bouvier had also made it to Lebanon. He said he had been "imprecise" due to the complexities of the situation.

The journalists believed to still be in the neighborhood are Frenchman William Daniels and Spaniard Javier Espinosa. In addition, the bodies of American Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, who were killed last week, are thought to be still in the neighborhood. Conroy's surprise arrival in Lebanon was celebrated by his family and British officials, who said they were trying to repatriate him.

Conroy, 47, and a father of three, is "in good shape and good spirits," said his employer, the Sunday Times.

Syria's U.N. ambassador in Geneva, Fayssal al-Hamwi, accused members of the U.N. Human Rights Council of promoting terrorism and prolonging the crisis by organizing the debate on the situation in his country.

Al-Hamwi denounced a planned resolution on Syria as "malicious and prejudiced" and then said his delegation would withdraw from what he called "this sterile discussion." He then stormed out of the room.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the 47-nation council, called al-Hamwi's comments "delusional."

In related developments:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Assad fits the definition of a war criminal for the violence he has unleashed on his people. Testifying on Capitol Hill and responding to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., she stopped short of calling for the international community to make that designation or leveling charges, saying such a step "limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power."

The United Nations said the death toll in the 11-month uprising was well over 7,500, and activists reported more than 250 dead in the past two days alone -- mostly from government shelling in Homs and Hama province.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki -- the first since the country's own Arab Spring uprising toppled his predecessor -- offered the Syrian leader asylum as part of a negotiated peace, an offer Assad will almost surely refuse.