Red Cross: Civilian deaths unacceptable

The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the heavy civilian casualties in the Israel-Lebanon conflict as "unacceptable".

    ICRC is also the guardian of the Geneva Conventions

    "The ICRC has repeatedly expressed its concerns about insufficient precautions taken in attacks by the parties to the armed conflict," the agency said in a statement on Sunday.


    "It is unacceptable that after more than 30 days of ongoing military operations, all necessary precautions to spare civilian life and those engaged in medical work have still not been taken."


    The humanitarian agency highlighted an Israeli air strike on hundreds of people fleeing the area of Marajayoun by car, which killed at least six and wounded 32 on August 11.


    Mikhael Jbayleh, a Lebanese Red Cross volunteer, was killed in the raid while trying to give first aid to a wounded person, it said.


    Volunteers hurt


    Two other Lebanese Red Cross volunteers were injured when their ambulance was hit by "two projectiles" east of Tyre, although no fighting was taking place nearby, the statement said. The source of the projectiles was not identified.


    "The ICRC deplores the heavy impact of hostilities on civilians and on Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) emergency medical personnel and assets." 


    ICRC particularly criticised an
    Israeli airstrike on August 11 

    It also deplored "the continuing lack of respect for the rules governing the conduct of hostilities, such as the distinction between military objectives and civilian persons and objects".


    The Israeli military has banned the movement of all vehicles in the region south of the Litani River, including near Tyre, warning they will be considered to be supporting the Shia Muslim militia Hezbollah and attacked.


    Only Red Cross and UN vehicles are exempted, but still need prior authorisation from the Israelis to travel.


    Roland Huguenin, the head of the ICRC's office in the embattled city of Tyre, said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that the air strikes were also affecting attempts to rescue civilians buried under bombed buildings.


    Vehicles targeted


    "The Israeli air force is shooting at all vehicles except those of the ICRC," Huguenin told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. 


    "As a result, when a building collapses, machines such as diggers cannot intervene to lift concrete blocks and save the people stuck in the ruins."


    "I don't see in what way the outcome of the conflict could be changed by allowing rescuers to get civilians out of the ruins"

    Roland Huguenin,
    head of ICRC's office in Tyre

    Huguenin said he had been trying to help a woman and three children in a village 15km from Tyre, where they were sleeping in the cellar of their home when it was destroyed.


    Although voices could be heard, rescuers could not bring in digging equipment to break through the ruins.


    "I don't see in what way the outcome of the conflict could be changed by allowing rescuers to get civilians out of the ruins," he commented.


    Alongside its role as a relief agency, the ICRC is also the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantee protection for civilians and the wounded in conflicts.



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