A mortar attack in Homs, Syria has done nothing to deter a UN aid convoy, United Nations spokesman Yacoub El Hillo said. El Hillo is overseeing the UN aid and development effort in Syria. While the aid convoy was forced to turn back in light of the attack, the UN and Red Crescent are determined to get aid to the stricken city of Homs and evacuate civilians who have been effectively trapped there.
One UN official described the attack as hellish, with the UN- and Red Crescent-led convoy being trapped in Syria’s besieged city for several hours. However, the UN remains committed to getting aid to the rebel-held city. Talal Barrazi, governor of Homs province, says that the convoy was attacked by two roadside bombs and a mortar attack. There is some debate, however, about whether the attack was generated by the rebels or by the government itself. Each side is, rather unsurprisingly, pointing fingers at each other in a rather dangerous sort of blame game.
Regardless of who attacked the convoy, however, the mortar attack in Homs province hasn’t stopped the UN push to deliver aid to those who need it. The current aid campaign should have seen essential aid delivered to the 2,500 civilians still trapped in Syria’s war-torn region, with several being evacuated as well. El Hillo said that several of those waiting for aid were killed in the attacks, and when the UN and Red Crescent vehicles finally emerged from the rebel-held area, they were covered with dents, as though they’d been hit with gunfire. The convoy was also attacked as it left the stricken area, but made it to the comparative safety of their nearby hotel relatively unscathed.
El Hillo said conditions were worsening in the region, with several of those trapped struggling with ill and terminal health. He noted that there were many elderly people trapped in the war zone, as well as women. He said that the aid mission simply wanted to get in and help ease the suffering of those caught in a war that they couldn’t escape.
Khaled Erksoussi, who heads up operations for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said another attempt at getting aid to the stricken region was going to be made sooner rather than later. The attempt would be made in accordance with the three-day ceasefire that the UN had brokered.
El Hillo said that the convoy had only gotten a glimpse of what people in Homs province have been living with daily for over a year now. He also noted that the mission to get aid to the stricken region would not be abandoned, though he would not say exactly who he thought was responsible for the attack.
According to reports, only two trucks successfully got to the civilians trapped within Homs, carrying 250 food parcels, 190 hygiene kits and urgently needed medicine. Rebels had insisted that four trucks be allowed to go within the area they held in Homs province, but Damascus had refused, only acceding to two trucks.
Only 83 civilians had been successfully evacuated from the war torn area on Friday, which was the first attempted evacuation in recent months. The conflict in Homs has escalated over the last 18 months, and while the Syrian mortar attack resulted in serious injuries and death, it has done nothing to deter efforts at UN or Red Crescent aid in Syria.
By Christina St-Jean