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Red Cross Warns of 'Harrowing' Spike in Civilian Deaths in Syria War

A report from a humanitarian organization working in Syria is sounding the alarm about the high levels of civilian casualties and the worst levels of violence since the battle for Aleppo in 2016.
Image: A view of Raqqa's Old City
A view of Raqqa's Old City destroyed during a battle with Islamic State militants, Syria on Oct. 1, 2017.Erik De Castro / Reuters

LONDON — The worst fighting since the 2016 battle for Aleppo is raging in several regions of Syria, causing hundreds of civilian casualties, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday.

In the report, the organization says it has seen an "increasingly worrying spike" in military operations in the past two weeks that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties.

The organization says as many as ten hospitals have reportedly been damaged in the past 10 days, cutting hundreds of thousands of people from access to even the most basic healthcare. It says fighting around the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor, with the population of more than 200,000 people, is also endangering water supplies.

As more people are fleeing from the violence, ICRC says some camps around Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are receiving more than 1,000 women, children and men every day and humanitarian organizations are struggling to provide water, food and basic hygiene to the new arrivals.

"My colleagues report harrowing stories, like a family of 13 who fled Deir Ezzor only to lose ten of its members to airstrikes and explosive devices along the way," said the head of ICRC's delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser.

ICRC says the violence is not only taking place in Raqqa — one of the few remaining ISIS strongholds — but also in Deir Ezzor, and western rural Aleppo, but also in many of the de-escalation areas, such as Idleb, rural Hama and Eastern Ghouta.

Combined, ICRC says these are the worst levels of violence since the battle for Aleppo in 2016, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said killed 718 civilians, including 175 children.