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ICRC Expands Humanitarian Action in Lebanon

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is appealing for $81 million to sharply increase its humanitarian operations for hundreds of thousands of war victims in Lebanon until the end of the year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the situation of the civilian population in Lebanon is worsening every day. It says casualties are on the rise and many people are trapped in villages in southern Lebanon. It says more and more people are fleeing the fighting and the number of homeless people continues to increase.

The head of ICRC operations, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, says the biggest concern is for the security of civilians in general and, in particular, for those people in villages in the south and along the border.

"The effects of the military operations mean that life for the remaining civilian population trapped by the fighting is rapidly becoming unbearable and the suffering excessive," he said. "In many instances, it is the immediate security of civilians that is at stake, which is why the ICRC underlines security of civilians as the primary issue with force."

Kraehenbuehl says the Red Cross has expanded its staff in Beirut, Tyre and Marjayoun and has been delivering aid and transporting injured people out of villages close to the Israeli border.

He says the damage to civilian infrastructure and the country's economy along with large-scale displacement of civilians means humanitarian operations are likely to continue into next year.

He says the money the ICRC is seeking will expand health programs and support medical facilities for 650,000 people. He says it also will help to treat up to 5,000 war-wounded.

"We will also seek to increase food and other essential relief goods for at least 200,000 residents and displaced people who are currently mainly receiving aid from local organizations and host families. We will also seek to improve access to clean water for more than 1.2 million people in Lebanon," he added.

Kraehenbuehl says the ICRC also is concerned about the plight of civilians in the north of Israel, where a number of people have been killed or injured by rocket attacks. He says the organization is helping Israel's Magen David Adom, which runs ambulance and emergency services in the country.