1.5 million in Syria lack basic needs: Red Cross

The conflict in Syria is transforming into a guerrilla war, with combatants carrying out ambushes and bombings, UN said.

Last Updated: May 08, 2012, 22:43 PM IST

Geneva: The conflict in Syria is transforming into a guerrilla war, with combatants carrying out ambushes and bombings instead of sustained battles, the Red Cross said on Tuesday, warning that more than 1.5 million Syrians are struggling to meet basic needs like food, water and shelter.
Fighting in the central city of Homs, where UN observers helped halt weeks of artillery attacks, and in the northern Syrian town of Idlib are now non-international armed conflicts, said Jakob Kellenberger, president of International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The type of the violence has changed a little bit," Kellenberger told a news conference at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

"At least in recent weeks, you have no longer these big battles like one had in Homs in the second half of February. You have more guerrilla attacks and bomb attacks."

The distinction that this is an internal armed conflict is important because under international humanitarian law the government and opposition gain additional rights to use force but could be held accountable for possible war crimes.

Tens of thousands of people are living in public buildings or other people`s homes, and the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent is feeding about 100,000 "particularly vulnerable" Syrians, he said.

Kellenberger spoke ahead of international envoy Kofi Annan`s assessment of the revolt in Syria and his attempts to bring about a cease-fire to the UN Security Council later today.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose country holds a seat on the powerful UN Security Council, told reporters in Berlin today the elections in Syria appeared to be an attempt by the Assad government to delay implementing the cease-fire.

"Holding elections amid ongoing violence and selling this as a reform step is completely unacceptable in our view," he said. "We don`t want any playing for time. ... The promises in the cease-fire must be kept."

Germany supports Annan`s peace plan, he said, and unless the Syrian government takes real reform steps Germany will return to the Security Council seeking more action.

Kellenberger also said ICRC has gained permission to visit detainees at Aleppo`s central prison from May 14-23 and is pushing for access to others.
What began as a largely peaceful protest movement has evolved into more Syrians taking up arms in the face of President Bashar Assad`s violent crackdown on dissent.

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the past 14 months since Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, began his crackdown.

PTI