Red Cross chief alarmed by chaotic Homs evacuation

2014-02-15 20:24
Syrian civilians wait at a meeting point before being evacuated during a UN-led humanitarian operation in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. (Bassel Tawil, AFP)

Syrian civilians wait at a meeting point before being evacuated during a UN-led humanitarian operation in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. (Bassel Tawil, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Geneva - Red Cross chief Peter Maurer voiced alarm on Saturday over the chaos surrounding the evacuation from the besieged Syrian city of Homs, urging the warring sides to respect basic humanitarian law.

"I am concerned about the conditions in which the evacuations took place and about the number of people who remain trapped and unaided between front lines throughout Syria," Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement.

"Humanitarians working in Homs over the last week were operating in an extremely challenging security environment," he said, lamenting that neither side in the conflict had provided "firm commitment to respect the basic principles of international humanitarian law".

The UN-led humanitarian operation to help thousands trapped in rebel-held areas of Homs besieged by the Syrian government for 600 days has been hailed as a success for getting some aid in and managing to evacuate some 1 400 people.

But the humanitarian exit operation - the result of months of painstaking UN-brokered negotiations - has been marred by the fragile ceasefire underpinning it.

Aid convoys into the areas, where people had been facing daily bombardment and dwindling supplies, came under attack and 14 people were killed by shelling.

Maurer stressed on Saturday that aid workers can provide desperately needed assistance only if all parties agree to respect and protect them, "as required by international humanitarian law".

"The situation in Homs and other besieged areas is highly complex, but the basic tenets of the law are simple," he said, stressing the responsibility of the parties to provide for the basic needs of civilians under their control or ensure that aid workers can do so.

Pointing out that more than a million people in Syria are living in "extremely difficult conditions", he said groups like the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent must be able to go in and "have direct contact with people affected by the fighting in order to assess their needs".

More than 136 000 people have been killed in nearly three years of civil war in Syria and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

Maurer said the organisations were ready to participate in further evacuations of Syrian civilians, but only if the warring parties "agree to guarantee safe passage to ICRC and SARC teams at all times".

The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions on warfare, and observers said it had been reluctant to get involved in the Homs evacuation because "it is not by any stretch of the imagination the way this should be done".

Maurer also referred to the hundreds of male evacuees who were detained in a bid by the regime to weed out "terrorists".

"Anyone detained after an evacuation must be treated humanely at all times and be allowed to contact their families," Maurer said, echoing calls from the United Nations.

Respecting humanitarian law is "non-negotiable", he said, stressing that "Syria is no exception."

Read more on:    icrc  |  syria  |  syria conflict

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


DA ad scores nearly half a millions hits on YouTube

The DA's "Ayisafani" (It's not the same) election TV advert - originally pulled off the air by the SABC - has garnered nearly half a million views on YouTube.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Saturday Newlands - 12:32 PM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    DELAYS between Wynberg Hill and UCT due to 2 Oceans Marathon
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 3 Black 64GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 4G

Retina Display Finally the incredible Retina display technology from the iPhone...

From R7699.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.