The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that violence is increasing significantly in Afghanistan as the Taliban are stepping up their spring offensives.
"Spring is a good season of the year usually. But unfortunately it has a negative connotation with the resumption of the fighting. Spring and summer will be very difficult for civilians especially in the months ahead. The civilian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict," Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul, said on Thursday. He added that the Afghan Red Crescent has suspended its activities in northern Afghanistan after unknown assailants opened fire on a medical van in the Khan Aqa district of Jawzjan province on Wednesday. Two Red Crescent staff members were killed in the attack, while two others sustained injuries. "This is a tragedy, not only for the families of the deceased, but for all those needing medical attention, because now units like these might find it even more difficult to work in certain parts of the country," Pontrandolfi said. He also called on the warring sides in Afghanistan to protect civilians and prevent their deaths. "We are maintaining our dialogue with the parties to the conflict, reminding them of their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and protect civilians and their properties," Pontrandolfi pointed out. Meanwhile, the United Nations says the number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan has dramatically increased in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesperson Nilab Mobarez raised the alarm on the civilian causalities on April 8. She did not reveal the exact numbers of those killed or injured, but called on all parties involved in the war to stop harming civilians. Many civilians have lost their lives in US-led operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past decade, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged at the seemingly endless number of the deadly assaults. Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks. The United States and its allies entered the war in Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than 11 years, the foreign troops have not been able to establish security in the country.