Syria: Urgent plea to warring parties to spare civilians

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Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed by the severe consequences for the civilians trapped in sharply intensified fighting in Qusair. According to various reports from within Qusair, many of the wounded are not receiving the medical care they need desperately. Medical supplies, food and water have all become scarce.

''We call on the parties involved to assume their full responsibilities with regard to respecting civilians and ensuring their safety. They must take every feasible precaution with regard to civilians and to those no longer taking part in hostilities,” says Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC’s operations in the Near and Middle East. ''We have already requested access to Qusair and we are prepared to enter the city immediately to deliver aid to the civilian population, provided we are able to operate in an impartial manner without preconditions of any kind.''

Thousands of civilians have already fled the city leaving everything they own behind. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, supported by the ICRC and others, has been providing aid to many of them. Thousands of other civilians are reported to be in Qusair still – hundreds of them severely wounded and without access to medical care.

"Civilians and the wounded are at risk of paying an even heavier price as the fighting continues. We call upon all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to take constant care to spare at all times the lives of civilians and of those no longer taking part in hostilities," Mr Mardini said.

Civilians are at increased risk during fighting in populated areas. They must not be targeted and those involved in the fighting must take all the required precautions to avoid harming them. Those who wish to leave for safer areas must be allowed to do so at any time. Those who choose to stay, or who are unable to leave, remain protected by international humanitarian law. The wounded – civilians and combatants – must receive medical care as promptly as possible. Fighters who have surrendered or been captured must not be killed and must be treated humanely.