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Syria: Humanitarian assistance urgently needed in old city of Homs

12-07-2013 News Release 13/126

Geneva/Damascus (ICRC) – The lives of thousands of people in the old city of Homs are at serious risk as a result of the intense fighting in progress there for over ten days now. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed by the situation.

The ICRC, which has been in contact with all sides, has received reports from within the old city of extremely difficult conditions exacerbated by the scarcity of food and medical supplies. ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams in Homs have been unable to respond to needs in the old city despite intense efforts to do so.

“We want to bring in humanitarian assistance and enable the evacuation of civilians,” said Magne Barth, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in Syria, who is now in Homs.  ”But an operation of this kind requires the consent of all sides. And that does not yet exist.”

“We call on the Syrian authorities to permit delivery, in the old city, of food and medical supplies, including surgical items, so that the sick and the wounded can be treated,” said Mr Barth. “We also call on all the armed groups that are in control of the old city to ensure that civilians who want to leave can do so safely.”

Under international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians. The parties to the conflict must also ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect civilians; those civilians who choose to stay behind remain protected against attacks. Under humanitarian law, all those who are sick or wounded have the right to be treated and cared for, without discrimination.

“Should we receive the consent necessary, we will pursue our efforts to bring humanitarian assistance into the old city provided the parties to the conflict agree to a humanitarian pause in the fighting, to ensure safe access for the teams from the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent,” Mr Barth said.

For further information, please contact:
Rima Kamal, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 33 67 18 or +963 11 331 0476
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26