Red Cross delivers first relief aid to Deraa


Aid workers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent delivered their first emergency relief supplies to the southern Syrian city of Deraa, cradle of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, a spokesman said.

The one-day visit granted by Syrian authorities coincided with an announcement that its army units have begun to leave Deraa, but residents described a city still under siege.

A convoy of two trucks carrying drinking water and two trucks with food and first aid materials accompanied the team of 13 experts from the Syrian Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said, Reuters reports.
“We got the green light to go and the visit took place. The goods were delivered,” Hassan told Reuters. “Meetings took place with authorities there.
“The team is back in Damascus now,” he said, adding it had included a doctor and some first aid workers from the Syrian Red Crescent, which had not previously been allowed into Deraa.

The neutral humanitarian agency had no immediate information on casualties in Deraa, where demonstrations calling for more freedoms and later for the overthrow of Assad began in March.

Activists and residents said soldiers backed by tanks had shelled and machine-gunned the city’s old quarter and rounded up people in mass arrests.

The visit followed an ICRC appeal on Tuesday for Syria to grant health workers immediate safe access to people injured in violence, especially in Deraa, and allow it to visit those who have been arrested.

Rights groups say at least 560 civilians have been killed since the protests erupted in Deraa on March 18, before spreading to other centres.

The ICRC said this week it had delivered medical supplies to some hospitals. Medics have been working hard to provide first aid and evacuate victims in some areas, but they must be able to carry out their work in safety and ambulances must be respected, it said in a statement.

All those arrested and detained must be treated humanely and held in decent conditions, it said. Confidential ICRC reports on prison visits are given only to the detaining authorities.