Gorazde hospital 'living hell' as Nato ponders air strikes

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Doctors fought a losing battle to tend the wounded in Gorazde's half-destroyed hospital yesterday and UN workers said relentless shelling had made the city 'a living hell'.

Bosnian Serbs defied international demands that they stop the brutality as Nato diplomats met to consider broader use of air strikes to protect Gorazde and five other UN 'safe areas' in Bosnia. About 60 Serbian women added to the UN's mounting humiliation by blocking a convoy of 100 UN troops and 41 medics north of Gorazde.

'Greetings from a city where only the dead are lucky,' said yesterday morning's report from UN aid workers in the town. 'The last two days here are a living hell,' said the message, received at the Geneva headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

In Sarajevo, a UN aid spokesman, Kris Janowski, said 97 civilians were killed on Thursday, the highest daily toll since the onset of the three-week-old Serbian offensive. Twenty-eight people were killed when shells hit a building near the hospital used to house an overflow of patients. Ten more were reported killed at a water-well near the building housing local UN staff.

Bosnian government radio said Serbian tanks and infantry were 500m (500 yards) from the town center, but there was no confirmation from UN officials. UN aid staff in Gorazde could not confirm reports at the UN in New York that there was house-to-house fighting on the east bank of the Drina river, where the hospital is located. But they reported continued shelling.

'The wounded lie for hours in the debris as it is suicidal to try and bring them to the hospital,' the UN aid workers' reports said. 'There is no safety or effective treatment at the hospital. Shells batter down the walls there and machine-gun fire rakes the wards.'

After a day of haggling, the Serbs finally allowed a UN convoy to leave Sarajevo for Gorazde on Thursday. But it was blocked 17km (10 miles) north of Gorazde by Serbian women demanding the release of prisoners held by the Muslim-led government forces in the town. UN officials were negotiating with the Serbs to get the convoy moving. Though the convoy may boost morale in Gorazde, it is not equipped to blunt the Serbian attack.

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