BEIRUT: Nearly 150 civilians, many disabled or sick, were evacuated overnight from a health facility in Aleppo’s Old City after the army retook the area, the Red Cross said Thursday.
The bodies of 11 people who died at the facility after being caught in crossfire or failing to receive medication were also retrieved, the humanitarian organization said.
Syria’s army has recaptured around 80 percent of the former rebel bastion of east Aleppo since beginning an assault three weeks ago, and tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it carried out an operation overnight with Syria’s Red Crescent (SARC) to evacuate 150 patients and civilians from the Dar al-Safaa facility in the Old City.
Previously an elderly care home, the facility had been expanded to host patients with mental health problems or physical disabilities, the ICRC said.
Around three dozen other civilians, some of them injured, had also sought refuge there, it added.
“These patients and civilians had been trapped in the area for days because of heavy clashes nearby and as the front line kept drawing closer,” said ICRC Syria delegation head Marianne Gasser.
“Many of them cannot move and need special attention and care. It must have been terrifying for them,” she added.
The two organizations had been trying to evacuate the facility since Tuesday, but were forced to postpone initial efforts because of heavy fighting, the statement said.
“Tragically, for some, the operation came too late: 11 people died before the SARC and ICRC teams were able to reach the center,” it added.
“They were either caught in the crossfire or died because they did not have access to the right medications.”
Syria’s government is three weeks into an operation to recapture east Aleppo — in rebel hands since 2012.
It now holds around 80 percent of the former opposition stronghold, and has advanced quickly.
At least 384 civilians, including 45 children, have been killed in government fire on east Aleppo since the operation began, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Another 105 civilians, including 35 children, have been killed in rebel fire on government-held west Aleppo in the same period, the British-based monitor says. AFP