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Libya: fighting still raging, one month on

16-03-2011 News Release 11/59

Geneva/Tobruk (ICRC) – One month after armed violence broke out in Libya, the fighting continues and is now spreading to the country’s most populated areas. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today transferred its staff in Benghazi to the eastern city of Tobruk, where it will continue to assist victims of the conflict.

"As we leave Benghazi and Ajdabiya after almost 20 days, we are extremely concerned about what will happen to civilians, the sick and wounded, detainees and others who are entitled to protection in times of conflict," said Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC mission in Libya. "We will remain in dialogue with both parties with a view to returning to Benghazi and the western part of the country when the security situation permits."

Humanitarian activities in and near Benghazi will still be carried out by the Libyan Red Crescent. Before leaving the area, the ICRC handed over to the Red Crescent food and other essential items sufficient to cover the needs of up to 15,000 people for one month.

The ICRC recently made an urgent appeal to the parties to apply international humanitarian law. Now that it is withdrawing from Benghazi, it is reiterating its demand that the parties meet their obligations under this body of law. "The ICRC once again calls on all those taking part to spare civilians and medical staff," said Mr Brooks.

In order to be prepared to assist further waves of people driven from their homes by the armed conflict, the ICRC will also maintain and reinforce its presence on the Egyptian and Tunisian borders. It will continue to help people contact their families and, in the case of migrants, their countries' embassies. It will also ensure that people fleeing the conflict receive water, food, shelter and medical assistance upon their arrival in Egypt or Tunisia from those countries' Red Crescent societies. In addition, two medical teams standing by outside Libya are ready to be deployed in 24 hours.

Since 27 February, the ICRC has been focusing its efforts on providing support for Libyan surgical teams and other medical staff working in Benghazi's Al Jalaa Hospital and in Ajdabiya's Central Hospital. It has sent surgical supplies and equipment to other parts of the country, and recently visited detainees in Benghazi.

The organization currently has 95 staff members carrying out humanitarian activities in connection with the armed conflict in Libya, including those working along the Egyptian and Tunisian borders and in Tobruk.

For further information, please contact:
Hicham Hassan (Arabic, English, French), ICRC Benghazi, tel: +218 92 330 4560 or +81 077 239 0115
Christian Cardon (English, French), ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02