A baby gets some rest in one of the tents put up in Hasiya for the displaced Syrian families. Photo: UNHCR/A. Blazy

1 June 2013 ? With fighting raging in Qusayr, western Syria, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for the protection of civilians and urged that trapped residents be allowed to flee the city.

His spokesperson said Mr. Ban is ?following with the gravest concern? the situation in Qusayr, where fighting has intensified in recent days.

In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban reminded the Government of its responsibility to protect civilians who come under its control, including from the threat of militias. He also called on the warring parties to allow trapped civilians to flee.

?As preparations for an international conference on Syria intensify, he reminds all parties to the conflict that the eyes of the world are upon them, and that they will be held accountable for any acts of atrocity carried out against the civilian population of Qusayr,? the statement continued.

Hundreds of families have fled the city in recent weeks. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said at least 700 families ? or some 3,500 people ? have arrived to Hasiya, a small nearby town with a population of 16,000.

Since March 2011, fighting between the Syrian Government and opposition forces seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad has killed more than 70,000 people, and left 6.8 million people in need. In addition, the UN estimates that some 1.5 million Syrians have fled their country to escape conflict.

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