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Respect international humanitarian law, urges ICRC

Parties to the conflict in Syria must allow humanitarian relief for civilians in need.

Friday August 30, 2013

The suffering of civilians in Syria has now reached unprecedented levels, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday, calling on all sides to respect international humanitarian law.

Any escalation of the crisis following an apparent chemical weapons attack would likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which were already immense, said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC's delegation in the country.

"There are acute shortages of vital medical supplies, food and water in a number of areas that have been sealed off for months and to which the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have not been given access," he said.

Under international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. They must also respect the right of all persons who are wounded or sick, whether fighters or civilians, to receive medical attention with the least possible delay.

In addition, any use of chemical weapons by any party would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The ICRC calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to respect the absolute prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

To date, more than 100,000 people have reportedly been killed, and hundreds more are dying on a daily basis or struggling through with their injuries. In addition, each and every day, hundreds of people are joining the millions of Syrians already displaced within the country or seeking refuge abroad.

"The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent remain as committed as ever and are ready to respond to needs, wherever they are and whatever they may be, provided humanitarian work can take place and we are given unconditional access to all areas," Mr Barth said.

More information is available from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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