News / Middle East

    ICRC Seeks Access to All of Libya as Conflict Intensifies

    Rebel fighters survey the situation during a battle along the road between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jiwad, Libya, March 10, 2011
    Rebel fighters survey the situation during a battle along the road between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jiwad, Libya, March 10, 2011

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    The International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing for access to all areas of conflict in Libya as fighting intensifies.

    The president of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, says the conflict in Libya has descended into civil war.  

    He says he is alarmed by the intensification of the fighting and mounting casualties. He says there are reports as many as 2,000 people have been wounded.  

    While these figures are unconfirmed, he says local doctors have seen a sharp increase in the number of casualties arriving at hospitals in Ajdabiya and Misrata.

    These opposition strongholds have come under attack by government forces in recent days.  The ICRC president says civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.

    Listen to VOA's Kate Woodsome's interview with ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon:

    He says he believes many people in western Libya are more severely affected by the fighting than those in the east. But, he adds, the ICRC has no access to the areas controlled by the Libyan government. So, it cannot assess the humanitarian needs.

    “I have been told that everything is under control, that all the hospitals are working perfectly and there is no need for any external humanitarian assistance," said Kellenberger. "That is what we are being told.  And, we are worried.  We would like to assess this ourselves, this situation.”

    Kellenberger says he is also very worried about persons deprived of their liberty. He says the ICRC is working to gain access to all people being detained by Libyan authorities and by the armed opposition which controls eastern Libya.

    “We have now succeeded in having access to persons deprived of their liberty or detained people in the east," he said. "The authorities in the east have given us access so we could start with that. But, we have no possibility for the time being to do assistance nor protection work in the area controlled by Tripoli.”

    Kellenberger says ICRC workers have visited between 60 and 80 detainees.

    As the conflict heats up, the ICRC president says it is becoming increasingly urgent for all parties to respect the rules of war and distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters. He says only military targets can be attacked.

    The ICRC has 26 expatriate staff, mostly medical personnel in rebel-controlled Benghazi. Kellenberger says it is unacceptable that 24 days after the fighting started, western Libya remains effectively cut off from humanitarian aid.

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