Asia Crisis

ICRC seeks humanitarian corridor in South Ossetia

GENEVA, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Warring parties in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia province should open up a "humanitarian corridor" to allow evacuation of those wounded by fighting, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday.

"We are calling for the opening of a humanitarian corridor to enable ambulances to evacuate wounded people and to enable civilians to be evacuated out of the conflict zone," spokeswoman Anna Nelson told a news briefing in Geneva.

"We call on sides to respect international humanitarian law and to not target civilians and to ensure that medical facilities and medical transport can treat wounded as necessary," she said.

The neutral, Swiss-based humanitarian organisation voiced concern at the escalation of violence and called for all sides to distinguish between civilians and those taking direct part in the hostilities.

Georgian troops, backed by warplanes, pounded separatist forces near the South Ossetian capital on Friday in a bid to re-take the territory. Russia backs the separatists who have controlled the region since a war in the early 1990s.

"It is a situation where ambulances cannot move. Hospitals are reported to be overflowing, surgery is taking place in corridors," the ICRC's Nelson said. "People are hiding out in their basements with no electricity, no communications and no access to basic services." (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)