UN says 1,500 wounded stranded in Syria siege town

The United Nations on Saturday pleaded for a ceasefire around the besieged Syrian town of Qusayr saying that up to 1,500 wounded are in desperate need of help.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said government forces and rebels should let trapped civilians escape the town which has been at the center of a mounting battle for more than two weeks.

"We understand there may also be as many as 1,500 wounded people in urgent need of immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment, and that the general situation in Al-Qusayr is desperate," said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay in a joint appeal.

The two said thousands of civilians have been trapped in the town, where rebel reinforcements have arrived to counter Bashar al-Assad's troops who have been bolstered by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

There are reports that "civilian neighborhoods continue to be indiscriminately attacked, and that other major violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are being committed, Amos and Pillay said.

The two called for an "immediate ceasefire" to let humanitarian agencies evacuate wounded.

Ban reminded Assad's government "of its responsibility to protect civilians who come under its control, including from the threat of militias. He calls on the warring parties to allow trapped civilians to escape the town," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

"He urges all sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties," Nesirky added in a statement.

"As preparations for an international conference on Syria intensify, (Ban) reminds all parties to the conflict that the eyes of the world are upon them," the statement added.

"They will be held accountable for any acts of atrocity carried out against the civilian population of Qusayr."

Qusayr, a key prize for the government and rebels, sits on the route between Damascus and the coast, near the Lebanese border, providing a key rebel conduit for weapons and fighters.