REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- A Red Crescent distribution center was set on fire Wednesday morning in the embattled Syrian city of Homs, the Syrian government and a Red Cross official said.
The center was full of humanitarian aid, including medicine, food, blankets and mattresses that were set for distribution, said Saleh Dabbakeh, Damascus spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Most of the material was destroyed. No one was inside the center at the time.
"It was meant to destroy it," Dabbakeh said of the fire. "More important than who and why, it is important for all the sides to respect the Red Crescent in particular and the International Committee of the Red Cross in general."
This was not the first time that their property or volunteers have been attacked, he said, citing past carjackings and kidnappings.
"Whether it was on purpose or by accident, these people are volunteers and they are internationally protected people,” Dabbakeh said. "First and foremost it is a loss for the people and in the greatest time of need."
Syrian state media reported the fire in the warehouse and blamed "an armed terrorist group." Violence has continued to rage in Syria despite a peace plan recently accepted by the government. A cease-fire, allowing humanitarian aid and other steps, is supposed to be carried out by an April 10 deadline.
-- Times staff
Photo: A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency shows members from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent unloading a truck filled with boxes of food aid, hygiene kits and blankets in the southern Syrian city of Dara on Wednesday. Credit: Agence France-Presse / Syrian Arab News Agency