Aid agencies sound alarm over besieged Syrian town

Aid agencies pleaded for immediate access to the besieged Syrian town of Qusair 

UN agencies and the International Red Cross have pleaded for immediate access to the besieged Syrian town of Qusair to deliver aid and evacuate civilians.

Thousands of people are thought to be trapped in the border town and surrounding villages, amid heavy fighting between rebels and pro-government troops.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was monitoring the battle for Qusair “with the gravest concern” and called on both sides to allow civilians to flee the town.

“The eyes of the world are upon them and… they will be held accountable for any acts of atrocity carried out against the civilian population of Qusayr,” he said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and emergency relief coordinator Navi Pillay said the situation in the Syrian town was “desperate”.

“We understand there may be as many as 1,500 wounded people in urgent need of immediate evacuation for medical treatment,” they said in a joint statement. More than 10,000 people have already fled to towns in the region including Hasiya and Al Dumina, seeking shelter in schools and unfinished buildings. “They urgently need food, bedding, clean water and medical care," the pair said.

Syria’s uprising is the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian disaster. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict since opposition forces sought to oust President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, and some 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was "alarmed" by the severe consequences for civilians trapped in Qusair, and was prepared to enter the town immediately to deliver aid.

“Civilians and the wounded are at risk of paying an even heavier price as the fighting continues,” said the head of the ICRC's operations in the region, Robert Mardini. “We are prepared to enter the city immediately to deliver aid to the civilian population."