A French TV cameraman became the first Western journalist killed in the 10-month-old Syrian uprising today, dying in a barrage of grenades during a government-sponsored trip to the restive city of Homs, officials and a witness said. The violence came just hours after President Bashar Assad made a surprise appearance at a rally in the capital, Damascus, joining thousands of supporters in a show of confidence as the conflict enters a dangerous and violent new phase.
The killing of Gilles Jacquier, who worked for France-2 Television, was likely to become a rallying cry for both sides, as the regime and the opposition blame each other for a recent spate of mysterious attacks. About 15 journalists were on the government trip when they were hit by several grenades, according to Jens Franssen, who was on the tour. "At some point, three or four (grenade) shells hit, very close to us," Franssen told the Belgian VRT network.