Aid agencies alarmed over trapped civilians
Aid organizations stepped up calls for civilians trapped in the flashpoint Syrian town of Qusair to be evacuated, as rebel fighters braced for a fresh assault from regime forces on Sunday. UN agencies and the International Red Cross appealed to both sides in the fighting to let the civilians, including 1,500 wounded according to UN figures, to leave the embattled town.
Saturday saw fierce fighting in the north of the town between rebel fighters and government troops backed by its Hezbollah allies, said a watchdog. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called on both sides to allow civilians to leave, and the organisation’s rights chief and relief coordinator called for a ceasefire so they could do so.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, said, ‘The opposition fighters are fighting with everything they’ve got. Regime forces are reinforcing the sites that they have north of the city, including Dabaa airport and Jawadiya.’
The group said at least 15 tanks were massed north of Qusair, a prize for both the regime and the rebels as it links Damascus to the coast, and is near the Lebanese border, providing a key rebel conduit for weapons and fighters. The town has been the scene of fierce fighting for two weeks now. With fears growing for the civilians there, Abdel Rahman said around 1,000 wounded people were trapped inside Qusair. UN officials suggested the figure could be higher.