50,000 pour out of east Aleppo ‘Mo­tion­less body of a girl was left crum­pled in the street’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

More than 50,000 Syr­i­ans have joined a grow­ing ex­o­dus of ter­ri­fied civil­ians from east Aleppo, a mon­i­tor said yes­ter­day, as the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was set for emer­gency talks on fight­ing in the city. As gov­ern­ment forces pressed an as­sault in the di­vided city, regime ar­tillery fire killed at least 26 civil­ians in east Aleppo yes­ter­day morn­ing, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor said.

Civil­ians have poured out of the be­sieged rebel-held east, bat­tered by air strikes and heavy ar­tillery fire by ad­vanc­ing regime forces. AFP’s cor­re­spon­dent in a south­east­ern dis­trict de­scribed ar­tillery shells “com­ing down like rain” yes­ter­day. Af­ter one mor­tar at­tack, the mo­tion­less body of a girl was left crum­pled in the street, her arm sev­ered and her head pierced by a sliver of shrap­nel. Res­cue vol­un­teers car­ried her body away on a mo­tor­cy­cle.

Regime forces and al­lied fight­ers have seized a third of the rebel-held east of Aleppo since they be­gan an op­er­a­tion to re­cap­ture all of the bat­tered sec­ond city just over a fort­night ago. They now fully con­trol the city’s north­east and pressed their of­fen­sive yes­ter­day on Aleppo’s south­east­ern edges, ad­vanc­ing in the Sheikh Saeed dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to state news agency SANA. The loss of Aleppo would be the big­gest blow for Syria’s op­po­si­tion since the con­flict be­gan in March 2011 with anti-gov­ern­ment protests, be­fore spi­ral­ing into a civil war.

‘Sit­u­a­tion des­per­ate’

More than 50,000 peo­ple have fled Aleppo’s rebel-held dis­tricts, the Ob­ser­va­tory said yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing at least 20,000 to gov­ern­ment-held ter­ri­tory and an­other 30,000 to Kur­dish-con­trolled dis­tricts. Many oth­ers have trav­elled south into the re­main­ing ter­ri­tory held by rebels.

An­other AFP cor­re­spon­dent near a tem­po­rary gov­ern­ment-run shel­ter on the edge of Aleppo yes­ter­day saw dozens of dis­placed res­i­dents hud­dled on the back of pick-up trucks un­der the pound­ing rain. Hun­dreds also massed in the newly re­cap­tured neigh­bour­hood of Ja­bal Badro to board gov­ern­ment buses head­ing to west Aleppo. “The sit­u­a­tion of those flee­ing is des­per­ate,” said Pawel Krzysiek, head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria. Syria’s Red Cres­cent is of­fer­ing as­sis­tance in gov­ern­ment-held ar­eas, but does not yet have ac­cess to east Aleppo.

The UN has for months sought ac­cess to the east, but a plan it pre­sented ear­lier this month to deliver aid has yet to be ap­proved by the gov­ern­ment. The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is to hold an emer­gency meet­ing later yes­ter­day on the sit­u­a­tion, re­ceiv­ing a brief­ing from a UN hu­man­i­tar­ian of­fi­cial and the UN’s peace en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura. Bri­tish For­eign Min­is­ter Boris John­son said he hoped the meet­ing could lead to “an end to the car­nage, par­tic­u­larly in Aleppo”.

“I would urge all those with re­spon­si­bil­ity for that, both the As­sad regime and their sup­port­ers in Rus­sia... to think of what they can do to bring peace, stop the bom­bard­ment, stop the killing of in­no­cent civil­ians and get to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble,” he told AFP af­ter meet­ing his Cypriot coun­ter­part in Ni­cosia. Syria’s op­po­si­tion Na­tional Coali­tion said it was work­ing with France on a draft UN res­o­lu­tion seek­ing an im­me­di­ate cease­fire in Aleppo, though regime ally Rus­sia was likely to veto such a pro­posal.

‘Wait­ing for death’

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, 26 civil­ians in­clud­ing seven chil­dren were killed in gov­ern­ment ar­tillery fire on the Jubb Al-Qubbeh dis­trict in east Aleppo, the Ob­ser­va­tory said. The White Hel­mets res­cue group pub­lished pho­tos of the af­ter­math of the shelling on Jubb Al-Qubbeh, show­ing an apoc­a­lyp­tic scene with bod­ies, pieces of flesh, and suit­cases strewn across the street. In one im­age, a young man wept next to two bod­ies, their top halves ob­scured by blan­kets. The feet of one body were clad in pink socks, the other wore red boots done up with white laces. The Ob­ser­va­tory says nearly 300 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 33 chil­dren, have been killed in east Aleppo since the lat­est gov­ern­ment as­sault be­gan on Novem­ber 15. An­other 48 civil­ians have been killed in west Aleppo, ac­cord­ing to the mon­i­tor.

State news agency SANA said eight civil­ians in­clud­ing two chil­dren had been killed in rebel fire on sev­eral dis­tricts in the city’s west yes­ter­day. The vi­o­lence in the city has prompted in­ter­na­tional con­cern, though there has been lit­tle sign of a plan to in­ter­vene. UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hus­sein on Wed­nes­day said civil­ians in east­ern Aleppo faced “a night­mare which clearly vi­o­lates the most ba­sic norms of hu­man rights and any shred of hu­man de­cency.”“Pounded by ac­cel­er­at­ing bom­bard­ment, de­lib­er­ately de­prived of food and med­i­cal care, many of them-in­clud­ing small chil­dren-re­port that they are sim­ply wait­ing for death,” he said. —AFP

ALEPPO: This photo pro­vided by the Syr­ian Civil De­fense White Hel­mets, which has been au­then­ti­cated based on its con­tents and other AP re­port­ing, shows a Syr­ian boy sit­ti­ing next to bod­ies af­ter ar­tillery fire struck the Jub Al-Quba dis­trict. —AP

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