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A view of bombed out buildings in the Damascus area (Reuters).

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports an increase in indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Damascus and says people are fleeing the Syrian capital in greater numbers. Reuters separately reports that March was the most violent month in Syria’s now more than two-year-old conflict, with 6,000 people killed, The total estimated death toll now stands at around 70,000. Also, reportedly more than a million Syrian refugees have fled Damascus because of the violence there. Rima Kamal, with the International Committee of the Red Cross, spoke about the situation with VOA’s Susan Yackee from Syria’s capital city.

Yackee: You’re there, in Damascus. Could you describe the situation in the city?

Rima Kamal

Kamal: There has been a recent spike in violence in Damascus in particular and the surrounding areas. We are seeing a rise in indiscriminate attacks against civilians. So, we’re talking, for instance, about mortars, car bombs and other types of explosions and violence. These types of violence which have been surfacing lately have been harvesting a high death toll among civilians, and also prompting lots and lots of people to leave Damascus either for displacement within the country or for neighboring countries where they get picked up in the refugee camps.

Yackee: What is the International Committee doing for these people?

Kamal: Humanitarian efforts cannot replace political solutions. These people are fleeing and dying because of the warfare that is being waged in densely populated areas. So, we can try to continue to provide them with the basic necessities to help them survive the hardship. We will continue to provide essential medical material, surgical materials, food and water, but in the end it is the conflicting parties that have to spare the population.

“[I]t is a political solution – and not humanitarian assistance – that can solve the crisis and the conflict in Syria.” – Rima Kamal, ICRC

Yackee: Is there anything the international community should do, in your opinion?

Kamal: Keep calling repeatedly on all sides of the conflict to take into account the suffering of the civilian population, to [coordinate] the fighting in a way that takes into account the civilian population, and that we have done repeatedly since the onset of the conflict in Syria. We also try repeatedly to reach sealed-off areas, and to negotiate with all parties to enable assistance to reach all parts of Syria irrespective of the geography or the place but, beyond that, again I say that it is a political solution – and not humanitarian assistance – that can solve the crisis and the conflict in Syria.

Yackee: Do you blame both sides for the violence against civilians?

Kamal: “Blame” is probably not a word we would use. We would say that we hold all sides responsible for the suffering of the civilian population, especially again when the fighting is conducted in such a way that no concern for civilians is whatsoever taken into account.

Listen to Susan Yackee’s interview with Rima Kamal using the audio player below:

Susan Yackee

Susan Yackee is anchor of VOA's International Edition radio show. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.

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