Efforts to evacuate civilians and wounded from the battered Syrian city of Homs failed again when a rescue team could not enter affected areas, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday, as fighting killed scores across the country.
As many as 120 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces on Thursday, many of whom were reported to have been killed in Duma, Al Arabiya reported citing activists at the Local Coordination Committees.
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is very concerned that the suffering experienced by the civilian population in Homs is being exacerbated by the fact that aid is still not reaching them,” said a statement, according to AFP.
“Yesterday, a joint ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent team was prevented from entering the city’s worst-hit areas.”
Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said that there had been an agreement from Syrian authorities and the opposition for the ICRC team to carry out an evacuation on Wednesday.
“On the spot, however, agreed-upon conditions were not met and the staff were unable to proceed,” she said in a statement, according to Reuters.
ICRC spokesman Bijan Farnoudi in Geneva declined to provide specifics or apportion blame for the latest setback after the two sides agreed in principle to a humanitarian truce.
It was the second time in a week that the ICRC was forced to turn back to Damascus. On June 21, its joint team with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent heard shooting as it tried to enter the old city where the agency says hundreds of civilians are trapped by fighting.
“The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are virtually the only humanitarian organizations working in the hardest-hit areas in the country, and safe and unhindered access is thus essential to their work. ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams take considerable risks performing their tasks,” the agency said in Thursday’s statement.
An official at the Syrian foreign ministry, in a report carried by the state news agency SANA, blamed “armed terrorist groups” -- the government’s term for opposition fighters -- for preventing the teams from being able to carry out the operation.
This was “without any justification at all but the insistence of these groups to continue the practice of murder and crime against these innocent citizens,” it quoted the Syrian foreign ministry official as saying.
There was no immediate comment by rebel groups in the flashpoint city.