By Shout-Africa.com Correspondent – Alarmed by the intensification of the fighting in Libya and mounting casualties, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is urging all those involved in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and in particular to take all possible precautions to spare civilian lives.
“Over the past few days, local doctors have seen a sharp increase in the number of casualties arriving at hospitals in Ajdabiya and Misrata,” said the president of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, today. “Misrata has been the scene of heavy fighting and air strikes in recent days. We have been informed by reliable sources that 40 patients were treated for injuries, some very serious, at a medical facility in the city, and that 22 bodies were taken there.”
“Meanwhile, our surgical team in Ajdabiya, in the east of the country, helped operate on some of the 55 wounded people who were brought to the city’s hospital this week alone,” said Mr Kellenberger. “This is but one sign that the conflict is intensifying. Our concern is that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. We believe that many people in western Libya have been even more severely affected by the fighting than those in the east.”
“All sides to the armed conflict must distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters,” said the ICRC president. “Only military targets can be attacked. It is urgent that this obligation be adhered to in a context where most of the hostilities seem to be taking place in densely populated areas, where civilians are especially at risk. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. The wounded and sick from all sides must be cared for, and medical facilities, ambulances and personnel must be respected and protected.”
Mr Kellenberger said the ICRC was working to gain access to all people being detained by the Libyan authorities and the armed opposition in connection with the fighting. “All those detained must at all times be treated humanely and held in decent conditions,” he declared.
The ICRC president expressed disappointment over the organization still not having access even to those areas where the clashes have been heaviest. “It’s unacceptable that, 24 days after the fighting started, a major part of the country remains effectively cut off from humanitarian aid,” he said. “Our greatest challenge right now is to reach the areas hardest hit by the fighting in order to help treat the war-wounded and follow up on people who have gone missing, as we’ve been doing in the east of the country since we arrived on 27 February.”
The ICRC president underlined the importance of cooperation with Libyan Red Crescent staff and volunteers in responding to the crisis.