Iraq: "Fallujah Must Not Become Another Ramadi"

All sides must do their utmost to protect and spare the civilians of Fallujah.

See New York Times video "Escape from Fallujah" featuring the ICRC delegation in Baghdad.

Baghdad (ICRC) - Fierce fighting is underway around the Iraqi city of Fallujah, raising serious concerns about the well-being and safety of civilians still trapped in and around the city. The situation is particularly worrisome for the tens of thousands of men, women, children and elderly who remain stuck inside the town – the largest in Anbar province – who have already had very limited access to food, water and basic healthcare for the past two years.

"Fallujah must not be allowed to become another Ramadi," said the ICRC's head of delegation in Iraq Katharina Ritz, referring to a nearby town that was severely damaged and left scattered with explosive remnants of war after intensive fighting there earlier this year. Clearing Ramadi of explosive weapons and rebuilding its homes and disrupted water and electric systems could take months, if not years to complete.

"Civilians must be spared and allowed to leave Fallujah safely, while houses and other civilian infrastructure must not be targeted", Ritz continued. "People of Fallujah have already suffered enormously as a result of relentless fighting in the area. Humanitarian agencies must be given access to reach them and provide relief."

The ICRC has been seeking access to Fallujah for months, but has so far not been able to get the safety guarantees and commitment it needs by all parties. It stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the violence.