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Red Cross Treats Iraqi Casualties - 2003-03-23

Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross that are still operating in Iraq have managed to visit hospitals in Baghdad to help treat the wounded there.

Iraqi staff members of the ICRC have reported treating about 100 casualties at Baghdad's Yarmuk teaching hospital. Spokesman Muin Qassis in Amman says the wounded included about 20 women and several children.

He says ICRC teams also have brought help to other hospitals in the Iraqi capital during a lull in the bombing raids there. "Another ICRC team managed to install a water purification unit at the general hospital. Now this hospital can accommodate about 2,500 beds. So now they are able to receive good potable water from this unit," said Mr. Qassis, who added that surgical equipment is also being provided.

ICRC teams located in the northern city of Irbil have reached several hundred of the thousands of displaced Kurds near the Iranian border.

"Our teams in the north managed to assist around 600 persons in the north, so far," said Mr. Qassis. "And we have learned that almost 23,000 displaced persons have been registered in the Penjuin area, a town near the border with Iran. So things seem to be under control there."

In a telephone interview with VOA, Mr. Qassis said the International Red Cross did manage to send in eight truckloads of emergency supplies the day before the war started.

"We have many trucks on standby in the neighboring countries, exactly as we planned it in the past few weeks," he added. "Since the military action started, we have not sent in any material nor any trucks. Definitely we will be negotiating this with the parties concerned in this conflict."

Mr. Qassis expects more relief supplies to move into Iraq as soon as it is safe to do so. And, he calls on all governments involved in the war in Iraq to respect international humanitarian laws that demand protection of civilians in the combat zones.