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Confirming Iraqi Civilian Casualties Difficult, says Red Cross

As the war with Iraq continues, the number of casualties is certain to climb. But it is hard to verify how many civilians may have been killed or injured in Iraq.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been allowed into hospitals in Iraqi's capital to deliver water supplies, and to make sure electrical systems work so hospitals can cope in the event of a power failure.

But ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the Red Cross does not do a head count of the injured, so the organization cannot verify how many casualties there are. "Today, we visited three hospitals in the capital, in Baghdad, and hospital sources reported that there have been 34 casualties and one death from last night's bombing. Yesterday, the toll was over 200. And the day before, the ICRC could confirm that there have been 14 injured and one death," she said.

Ms. Doumani was asked whether those who were injured were in buildings that had been hit. "We do not know exactly from the bombing, from the shelling, from anti-aircraft. It is difficult for us to tell," she said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said civilian casualties in Iraq cannot be completely avoided. But he says coalition forces will take every precaution to protect innocent civilians.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press television program, Mr. Rumsfeld said Iraq is deliberately putting citizens in harm's way by placing military installations near mosques, hospitals and schools. "And I would strongly advise the civilians who are anywhere near those [military] facilities that they leave, because it is not safe," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Coalition aircrews dropped more four million leaflets into Iraq Friday Saturday, telling Iraqi civilans what they can do to protect themselves. The leaflets advise civilians to stay in their homes and not to interfere with coalition troops.