war in iraq


Fighting causes evacuation of Syrian Red Crescent camp

April 07, 2003

A camp established by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to accommodate people fleeing Iraq was evacuated on Sunday afternoon because of the threat to security caused by continued fighting on the other side of the border with Iraq. The Al-Bukamal camp is located only a few hundred metres from the border, along the Euphrates River.

Seven foreign workers who had been sheltered in the camp for the past five days had to leave the site at 16:00 hours in a bus chartered by the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM).

"Exchanges of fire between warplanes and anti-aircraft defences had been going on for the past two nights," explained Abu Baker El Tigani, an International Federation delegate who was at the camp on Sunday. "Early this morning a building on the Iraqi side of the border was struck by a missile and was set on fire. The smoke quickly covered the entire camp site."

The group of seven, consisting of five Sudanese, one Chadian and one Somali, is now being accommodated in the Al-Hol camp established by the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), some 220 kilometres further north along the Iraqi border.

All nine SARC volunteers and staff working in the camp were relocated to the city of Deir Az Zor and remain on stand-by. Since 31 March more than 185 third country nationals leaving Iraq have been sheltered in the Al-Bukamal camp for a night or two, en route to their countries of origin.

Meanwhile, 17 people, including 13 Iraqis, arrived at another SARC camp in Al-Tanf, some 240 kilometres south-west of Al-Bukamal. All came from Baghdad on Saturday, after an uncertain 500-kilometre journey by taxi. They slept in tents equipped with mattresses and blankets, and were given canned food and fruit juices, before hot meals can be served.

More than 150 tents have already been put up at Al-Tanf camp, also located a few hundred metres from the Iraqi border. "Three tents were converted into basic health clinics and equipped with medical supplies," said Dr. Ayham Omari, one of the five Red Crescent volunteers working on site 24 hours a day. "Fortunately, everybody arrived in the camp in good health," he added.

Another 11 tents were erected for administration and storage. More volunteers from the Damascus SARC branch were expected to join their colleagues at the camp on Sunday night, bringing enough food items to cater for the needs of 200 people. Overall, with support from the International Federation, the Syrian Red Crescent can assist at least 5,000 people who may be forced to leave Iraq because of the war.

"Drinking water is stored in four 2,000-litre tanks, and eight latrines are being constructed," explained Don Atkinson, the International Federation's regional water and sanitation delegate, during a visit to the camp on Sunday. The weather is still reasonably cool and the wind gentle, Atkinson said. But in this desert peace of land made of sand and stones, everyone expects the heat to come anytime soon.

Source: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies


war in iraq