#ICYMI Weekly Roundup: Aid Workers are #NotATarget February 10, 2017

On Tuesday, February 7, the International Committee of the Red Cross saw its most devastating loss of life in two decades.  While delivering critical aid in northern Afghanistan, six ICRC staff members were shot and killed by unknown armed men. Two are still unaccounted for.

ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord said of the attack, “It seems impossible…"

That tragedy was compounded by more sad news. On Wednesday, February 8, while working at an aid distribution center at Hamadaniya, in the Syrian city of Aleppo, one Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) staff member was killed, seven SARC staff and volunteers wounded, two civilians were killed, and many more were wounded. Since the conflict in Syria started almost six years ago, 60 SARC members have been killed in the line of duty.

And just last month, on January 17, an airstrike in Rann, Nigeria killed six Red Cross workers during a humanitarian operation bringing food to more than 25,000 displaced people. So many lives senselessly lost in such a short span of time.

For this week’s roundup, we’ve collected some of the media coverage and public condemnation on these attacks. Today and every day, we in Washington stand with our colleagues who risk their lives to save others. Aid workers are #NotATarget. (Next week, the ICRC will launch a worldwide campaign using this hashtag, aimed at raising awareness of the need to protect and respect humanitarians).

Afghanistan

Mourners carry the coffin of one of six Afghan employees of the Red Cross killed in an attack this week in a remote northern province.Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images

Mourners carry the coffin of one of six Afghan employees of the Red Cross killed in an attack this week in a remote northern province.Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images

Red Cross Reacts To Killing Of 6 Staffers: 'We're Completely Devastated' (Goats and Soda, NPR)

Marc Silver of NPR spoke with Thomas Glass, the ICRC head of communications in Afghanistan, to get an in depth perspective on what happened and what is known at this point about their attackers.

Gunmen kill 6 Red Cross staffers in northern Afghanistan; 2 others missing (Washington Post)

William Branigan contributed to this report outlining the series of events in Jowzjan province quoting Monica Zanarelli, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan. “This is a despicable act. Nothing can justify the murder of our colleagues and dear friends.”

6 Red Cross workers killed in Afghanistan (CNN)

Ehsan Popalzai and Ralph Ellis, CNN, quoted Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International's South Asia director, "By targeting the ICRC, who devote their lives to helping people in desperate need, the perpetrators have demonstrated a horrific contempt for human life.”

Militants Kill 6 Red Cross Workers in Afghanistan (New York Times)

Mujib Mashal writes that the Red Cross has a 30-year history of helping war victims in Afghanistan, providing crucial medical aid to areas near the battlefield, among other things. The insurgency also relies on Red Cross volunteers to retrieve the bodies of its dead in large parts of the country and to help families of its detainees communicate with them in prison.

He mentioned that in a recent report, the Red Cross expressed concerns about “the shrinking access of humanitarian aid workers in numerous parts of the country” because of “the intensification of conflict-related violence.”

Militants Kill 6 ICRC Employees in Afghanistan (Voice of America – VOA)

From Islamabad, Ayaz Gul of VOA, quoted ICRC President Peter Maurer, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms what appears to be a deliberate attack on our staff. This is a huge tragedy. We're in shock.”

Red Cross Says 6 of Its Workers Were Killed By Unknown Assailants In Afghanistan (NPR)

NPR's Greg Myre reports, “The ICRC has worked in Afghanistan for 30 years. Its neutrality is widely respected, with rare exceptions. But the group says it's putting aid operations on hold while it assesses the attack."

Syria

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on killing of ICRC workers in Afghanistan and SARC workers in Syria

“We are saddened and outraged by the cruel killings today of six workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross in northern Afghanistan, and two workers for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Aleppo, Syria.”

Statement by Ali Al-Za’tari, the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria on attack on Syrian Arab Red Crescent distribution center in Aleppo city, Syria, Damascus, 9 February 2017

“Humanitarian workers have not been spared the effects of the ongoing crisis. There are scores of staff and volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the UN, international and national NGOs, in addition to doctors and medical workers who have lost their lives in the line of their heroic duty.”

Rocket fire on aid distribution centre kills 3 in Syria’s Aleppo (TRT World)

This report states that the rocket fire hit a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) distribution centre in the Hamdaniyah neighborhood of the city. SARC and the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed the volunteer's death.

Nigeria

Nigeria air strike dead 'rises to 115' in Rann (BBC News)

The BBC reported that Nigerian Commanders have apologized for the "accidental" bombing, which they said was because of "the fog of war". This accident killed 115 people who have fled conflict in north-east Nigeria as well as 6 Nigerian Red Cross workers.

Nigerian Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Scores (New York Times)

Dionne Searcey of the New York Times summarizes activity in the Rann area that led to the accidental bombing of the Nigerian government run camp where many humanitarian orginizations had not been able to reach until December 2016.

A dark day in the history of the Red Cross (British Red Cross)

British Red Cross chief executive, Mike Adamson, writes “These developments highlight a profoundly worrying escalation in loss of life of humanitarian workers. They risk marking the moment that the death of people who should be protected under the international rules of war became the norm. We cannot accept that.”

Humanity under fire

Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria after it was hit by airstrikes in April 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria after it was hit by airstrikes in April 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Read more in the Red Cross and Red Crescent magazine special “Humanity Under Fire” about the sad and familiar pattern of bombed hospitals, health and first-aid workers killed, and heavily populated areas bombard. What more can be done to ensure respect for the rules of war?

**The usual Intercross disclaimer: Just because something is featured here, doesn't mean we endorse or agree with it, and the views expressed on the platforms we're highlighting don't necessarily represent those of the ICRC.**