Military escalation in Syria will worsen civilians' plight: Red Cross

GENEVA Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:31am EDT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Any escalation of the Syrian crisis following an apparent chemical weapons attack will worsen suffering of civilians that has already reached unprecedented levels, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

In a statement, the ICRC said it was appalled by reports of a poison gas attack on August 21 and urged all sides in Syria's civil war to respect the absolute ban on chemical weapons use under international law.

There are acute shortages of vital medical supplies, food and water in a number of areas in Syria cut off from aid deliveries for months, according to the independent agency, which called for unconditional access for relief supplies.

The Geneva-based ICRC has tried to reach civilians trapped in the old city of Homs since early July but it says it has been blocked by Syrian government authorities.

"Further escalation will likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense," said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

"In large parts of rural Damascus for example, people are dying because they lack medical supplies and because there are not enough medical personnel to attend to them," he said, adding that some go hungry because food does not reach them regularly.

At least 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict that began in March 2011, and every day hundreds of people die or struggle with injuries, according to the ICRC.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

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