From The Telegraph.
Assad regime refuses Red Cross access to besieged Syrian town of Qusayr
The Assad regime on Sunday night rejected calls to allow the Red Cross to rescue civilians trapped in the besieged town of Qusayr, currently scene of one of the biggest battles of the Syrian civil war.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, led calls for a ceasefire to allow civilians to leave, including 1,500 people said to have been injured.
But Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Muallem, said the regime would not allow entry until its forces had retaken the town.
"Syrian authorities will allow the Red Cross in cooperation with the Syrian Red Crescent access to the area immediately after the end of military operations," he said.
The regime launched an assault on the town, which has been partly or largely in rebel hands for 18 months, two weeks ago.
It lies south-west of the battleground city of Homs, where rebel fighters have been holding out in two neighbourhoods since the suburb of Baba Amr fell to regime forces in spring last year.
It also guards the smuggling route through which rebels have spread weapons brought in from Lebanon across Homs province, while for the regime the main road that runs between it and the Lebanese border is a supply route to its forces further north, including in Alawite-dominated areas of Latakia province.
But the regime's forces and the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah, which has been fighting alongside them, have been held up on the outskirts of town by fierce rebel resistance.
On Friday, a relief force of Free Syrian Army fighters from Aleppo, led by a defected army colonel, Abduljaber Al-Oqaidi, and said to be 400-strong, broke through to the town.
Video posted online on Sunday apparently showed him, together with "Abu Arab" the FSA leader, in Qusayr. Locations presented in the video suggested rebels still had control of a large part of the town.
It is thought that up to 20,000 civilians remain trapped inside the town, which is now under regular regime bombardment, with many of its apartment blocks lying in ruins.
Rebels say convoys that attempted to leave the town with some of the injured came under fire from regime forces.
Mr Ban said all sides had a duty to protect non-combatants. A spokesman for Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, said: "There should be a ceasefire at least and they let the civilians and the wounded get out and also let some aid in as well. Civilians who stay behind will need food and water. International law does require fighting forces to allow aid to civilians in this sort of situation."
But Mr Muallem complained that no one expressed concern when the rebels, whom he described as "terrorists", took control of the town.
"What the Syrian Arab Army is doing is to free these citizens from the terrorism of these armed terrorist groups and return security and stability to Qusayr and the surrounding area," he said.
In fact, before Qusayr was surrounded by Hizbollah and the regime's military, many families, and the injured, were able freely to travel to neighbouring Lebanon.
Russia used a similar pretext to block a resolution at the United Nations human rights council on Saturday night calling for aid to be allowed in to the town.
The rebels launched a series of raids in towns near Qusayr to distract regime forces, but suffered heavy casualties in a battle for the largely Alawite town of Kafr Nan, according to monitors outside the country.
In another sign of the war's gradual spread into Lebanon, one battle was fought on the Lebanese side of the border south of Qusayr, when rebels apparently about to stage an attack on a Hizbollah neighbourhood were themselves attacked.