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Syria challenges ICRC claims

  |   Feb. 22, 2012 at 11:13 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Syrian government provides free healthcare services to all residents, the government said in response to concerns expressed by the ICRC.

The Syrian government, through its official Syrian Arab News Agency, blamed Western sanctions for a shortage of medical equipment and materials in the country.

The message added that "armed terrorist groups" were responsible for targeting a hospital in Homs recently. More than a dozen paramedics were killed and 27 others were wounded.

The government added that "external sides" were funding armed militias in the country.

Two Western journalists were reported killed while working in Homs this week. Homs is emerging as the flash point for the 11-month conflict in Syria.

Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said "entire families" are unable to leave their homes in Homs because of violence in the city. He said his group was in contact with Damascus and members of the opposition in order to broker a two-hour daily truce to assist those caught up in the conflict.

The United Nations estimates around 6,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against the regime began last March. Damascus maintains its dealing with an armed insurgency and announced plans to adopt a new constitution to ally opposition concerns.

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