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ICRC Negotiating Medical Evacuations From Syria's Homs

  • Lisa Schlein

Damaged houses in handout picture taken by Syrian National Council (SNC) member Moulhem Al-Jundi in Karm Al Zaytoon, a neighbourhood of Homs, February 23, 2012.

Damaged houses in handout picture taken by Syrian National Council (SNC) member Moulhem Al-Jundi in Karm Al Zaytoon, a neighbourhood of Homs, February 23, 2012.

The international Red Cross tried in vain Saturday to get into the besieged Syrian city of Homs, to evacuate wounded ( from the Baba Amro district). Red Cross officials say they hope to resume negotiations with Syrian authorities and opposition groups in Homs on Sunday, but that Saturday's talks produced no results.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is in negotiations with Syrian authorities and the opposition at both the local and central level to organize a second medical evacuation.

The Red Cross evacuated seven sick or wounded people from the besieged Baba Amro district of Homs on Friday. The agency confirms two wounded French journalists were not among the group transferred. The Red Cross also relocated 20 women and children to a safer area.

ICRC Spokeswoman, Carla Haddad-Mardini says Red Cross delegates are ready to resume the life-saving operations in an instant.

“We need to be prepared and our teams on the spot are ready to enter anytime. But, an evacuation operation does take time because you need to organize things on the spot. But , the convoys are ready. Everything is ready. It is just we need to clear this with all sides before entering because the security conditions are difficult on the spot,” she said.

Haddad-Mardini says the Red Cross needs to have approval from all sides concerned before it can begin transferring the wounded to the nearest hospital. She says negotiations to this effect are ongoing and everyone is hoping the operation will be renewed.

The central city of Homs has been under heavy bombardment for three weeks. The Red Cross spokeswoman says it is not possible to know how many people have been killed and wounded.

“Homs has been cut off for awhile from life-saving material and life-saving activities and we cannot say more on what is happening inside the area of Baba Amro because we need to be able to enter regularly to assess the situation and to be able to respond to the needs accordingly. We need to be there to see it and to get first-hand information. And, since yesterday, we have not been able to return. That is the reason discussions are ongoing with the different sides,” she said.

Haddad-Mardini says the Red Cross so far has not been successful in getting Syrian authorities to agree to a daily two-hour pause in the fighting. She says it is critical to get this daily lull so Red Cross and Red Crescent workers can deliver humanitarian assistance to the victims.

She stresses the Red Cross is not just asking for a pause in the fighting in Homs and Baba Amro. She says people in all affected areas and regions in the country are in need of help.

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