Syria to let Red Cross into embattled district

After rebel forces withdraw from Baba Amro neighborhood of Homs, ICRC given green light to deliver much-needed aid.

Cars damaged in Homs 390 (photo credit: Reuters)
Cars damaged in Homs 390
(photo credit: Reuters)
GENEVA - Syrian authorities will let Red Cross aid workers enter the Baba Amro district of Homs on Friday, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in Geneva.
The move came as a three-week army siege of the neighborhood appeared to be ending on Thursday with the withdrawal of rebel forces.
"The Syrian Red Crescent and ICRC have received a green light from the authorities to go to Baba Amro tomorrow, Friday, in order to bring in much needed assistance including food and medical aid and to carry out evacuation operations," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters.
Syrian authorities also gave the ICRC "positive indications" on the agency's Feb. 21 request for a daily, two-hour ceasefire to deliver life-saving relief supplies to civilians, he said.
The green light came as Syrian rebels left Baba Amro after a 26-day military siege aimed at crushing a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar Assad.
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Hassan, asked about the timing of the agreement, said: "We can't speculate on the timing and reasons of this green light. We have, however, been in negotiations for several days.
"It's more urgent than ever to implement this initiative of a humanitarian ceasefire in the shortest delay, all the more that the humanitarian situation is worsening."
A statement in the name of the fighters urged the ICRC and other humanitarian groups to enter Baba Amro and bring aid to 4,000 civilians who had stayed in their damaged houses.
ICRC aid trucks had been meant to go from Damascus to Homs on Thursday, but snow had prevented them from reaching the city, 160 km (100 miles) north of the capital, Hassan said.
In recent weeks, he added, the ICRC's local affiliate, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, had distributed aid elsewhere in Homs, including to people who fled Baba Amro. But it had not been able to take supplies and services into the rebel stronghold itself.