The International Committee of the Red Cross said its operation to evacuate thousands of civilians trapped in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol remains up in the air.
The organization said Friday a team of nine staff in three cars are moving from the town of Zaporizhzhia toward Mariupol to assist with the so-called Safe Passage Operation. However, ICRC spokesman Ewen Watson said it is not clear whether the operation can proceed safely.
He said top-level officials from the parties involved have approved the mission but that previous agreements have been broken.
"If you remember toward the beginning of March, we did try and do a similar operation from Mariupol, that we thought that there was a cease-fire agreement in place for, and then hostilities resumed," Watson said. "So, that is the reality that we are facing here and what we want to avoid this time around. We want this to be a successful operation that allows civilians to leave the city safely and on a voluntary basis."
Food, water and medical supplies in Mariupol are dwindling, Watson said, adding that civilians have been forced into bunkers because of relentless bombing raids that have turned the city into rubble.
He said the safe passage operation is very complex and it is important that all sides understand what is involved and implement what has been agreed to.
"The details that we insist are cemented and in place include the exact safe passage route, its exact start time, and its duration," Watson said. "We have to be certain that a cease-fire holds, of course. We have to be certain that this humanitarian convoy can move safely through military checkpoints."
The transfer and evacuation of people at risk should only take place if certain conditions are fulfilled, Watson added, including the consent of the people concerned.
He said a convoy of humanitarian aid is on standby, but that the ICRC has not received permission for it to move into Mariupol.