Aid workers have been seeking access to the flashpoint city since government forces and opposition agreed to a humanitarian pause in the fighting last week. But the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent team was forced to turn back last Thursday after hearing shooting as they entered the old city.
“We have now made a second demarche in fact today so that we can go back to relevant places in Homs, together with the Syrian Red Crescent,” ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said.
“The agreement of the parties to a conflict is necessary to do the job. There are also real security concerns, booby traps and other things,” he told a news conference in Geneva. The ICRC says hundreds of civilians in the old city of Homs are trapped by fighting and wounded urgently need medical care.
“The will remains very strong to have access,” Kellenberger said. “If we want to enter, it is obviously because we think there are huge humanitarian needs.” The independent aid agency also planned to deliver assistance to Aleppo, Latakia and Tartous this week, he said.
The only international aid agency working actively in Syria, it now deploys 30 expatriate workers in the country, Kellenberger said, noting that they travel without armed escort. “The ICRC remains the only international humanitarian actor working in his very dangerous context. And that does not go without saying, I have to tell you,” he said.
On Friday, a Syrian Red Crescent volunteer was shot dead on first aid duty in Deir al-Zor, an eastern province affected by heavy shelling and fierce fighting between security forces and rebels who have joined the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. The United Nations, which said on Friday that 1.5 million Syrians now need assistance, has been largely shut out of Syria.