Red Cross chief to discuss Syria's humanitarian crisis with Assad


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The Independent Online

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived in Damascus yesterday for talks with the Syrian government aimed at improving humanitarian access to civilians in the country.

Former Swiss diplomat Peter Maurer is to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and other top officials today, at a time when violence in Syria's 17-month civil war has reached a peak.

The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria – an umbrella organisation of activists in the country – say that 4,933 people were killed during August, making it the deadliest month in the conflict so far. They said that 144 people were killed across the country on Sunday, including 74 in Damascus and its suburbs. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 26,000 people have been killed since the start of the revolt in March last year.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Maurer said his talks would focus on "the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the difficulties faced by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent as they attempt to reach people affected by the armed conflict".

The most intense fighting has been centred around the commercial hub of Aleppo, where the army has been attempting to wrest back control of the city from the rebels for the past five weeks. Yesterday, opposition activists said an estimated 18 people were killed by an airstrike in the town of Al-Bab, just 18 miles north-east of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human rights told AFP that six women and two children were among those killed when the fighter jet bombed a building in which they were taking shelter.

The capital, Damascus, has also seen heavy fighting. A car bomb killed four people, including a child, in the predominantly Christian and Druze suburb of Jaramana yesterday, activists said.