Intl aid groups: evacuate Qusayr

International aid organizations appeal to Syrian rebels and government forces to allow civilians trapped in the city of Qusayr to be evacuated, as rebel forces brace for a fresh attack by the army and its Hezbollah allies. UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross demand both sides to allow civilians to leave, including an estimated 1,500 wounded. Qusayr is home to about 30,000 people. The fighting began two weeks ago with the regime’s attempt to gain control of the strategic city bordering Lebanon. The control of Qusayr is essential for rebels because it is their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from across the border. The powerful Lebanese Shiite group, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, dispatched thousands of fighters to help put down the uprising. Activists in Syria say escape routes for civilians have become unsafe, with evacuees being attacked by Syrian forces. UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay say there is “an urgent need of immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment”.

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