GENEVA (Reuters) - Nearly 150 civilians, most disabled or in need of urgent care, were evacuated overnight from a hospital in Aleppo’s Old City, the first major medical evacuation from the eastern sector, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.
They had been trapped there for days by nearby fighting and as the front line moved closer, ICRC spokeswoman Krista Armstrong said, with only five staff to look after them.
Six children, found alone in nearby streets, aged from seven months to seven years, were also evacuated. “The eldest said they had not eaten for two days”, she told Reuters.
Eleven patients died from lack of medication or were killed in crossfire before ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams could reach them late on Wednesday, the agency said in a statement.
Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, who is in Aleppo, said of the evacuees: “Many of them cannot move and need special attention and care.”
The United Nations has said for weeks that some 400 sick and wounded patients require emergency medical evacuation from east Aleppo for treatment, but it was not clear whether the 150 were among them.
Of the disabled, mental health patients, and wounded evacuated from Dar Al-Safaa hospital in the Old City, 118 were taken to three hospitals in the government-controlled west of Aleppo. Some were carried out on chairs.
Sixteen critical and emergency cases were transported by ambulance to Al-Razi surgical hospital and University Hospital, Armstrong said. Ibn Khaldoun hospital took the mental health and elderly patients, who were brought by bus, she said.
Thirty other men, women and children were taken to shelters, also in the west of the city, the ICRC statement said.
“We saw so much suffering tonight: people had no access to food or basics for almost a week”, an ICRC doctor involved in the evacuation tweeted.
As heavy fighting engulfs eastern Aleppo, the humanitarian situation is “known to be catastrophic”, the ICRC said. The agency called on all warring sides to allow a humanitarian pause so that aid supplies can be delivered to the besieged sector which has been inaccessible since April.
“We will not give up on the civilians caught amidst the fighting, and will keep trying and negotiating to reach them and respond to their needs,” Armstrong said.
The Syrian army has gained control of all parts of the Old City, a war monitoring group said on Wednesday, part of an advance which has seen insurgents lose about two thirds of their main urban stronghold over the past two weeks.
Editing by Louise Ireland