Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ALEPPO: Air strikes pum­meled the shrink­ing rebel en­clave in Aleppo yes­ter­day as US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said the Syr­ian regime’s “in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing” amounted to crimes against hu­man­ity. West­ern pow­ers meet­ing in Paris called for the re­sump­tion of peace talks and for civil­ians to be al­lowed to leave Aleppo, where tens of thou­sands have al­ready fled a fierce regime of­fen­sive.

The diplo­matic flurry came as a US-backed al­liance an­nounced it would launch the sec­ond phase of its bat­tle for the Is­lamic State group’s de facto Syr­ian cap­i­tal Raqa fur­ther east. The regime’s more than three-week-old as­sault aimed at retaking all of Aleppo has trig­gered mount­ing international out­rage.

“The in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing by the regime vi­o­lates rules of law, or in many cases, crimes against hu­man­ity, and war crimes,” Kerry said af­ter the talks in Paris, urg­ing Rus­sia to do its “ut­most to bring it to a close”. US and Rus­sian of­fi­cials mean­while were to gather in Geneva for what Kerry de­scribed as a bid to stop the city from “be­ing ab­so­lutely, com­pletely, de­stroyed”.

Once the beat­ing heart of Syria’s in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial in­dus­tries, Aleppo has wit­nessed some of the most bru­tal vi­o­lence of the coun­try’s nearly six-year war. In less than a month, forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Bashar AlAs­sad have over­run around 85 per­cent of east Aleppo, a rebel strong­hold since 2012.

The UN’s Syria en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura said the world is watch­ing “the last steps” in the Aleppo bat­tle and evac­u­at­ing civil­ians must be a pri­or­ity. Air strikes and regime rocket fire bat­tered the last re­main­ing rebel dis­tricts yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights. An AFP cor­re­spon­dent in west Aleppo could hear the hum of air­planes cir­cling above, cou­pled with bom­bard­ment and ma­chine gun­fire on the city’s east. The strikes were so in­tense that win­dows in the west rat­tled and plumes of smoke could be seen ris­ing from sev­eral points across the city’s sky­line.

‘Bomb­ing is un­real’

“The bomb­ing is un­real,” said Ibrahim Abu Al-Leith, spokesman for the White Hel­mets rescue force in­side Aleppo. Abu Al-Leith spoke to AFP from one of the last rebel-con­trolled zones in Aleppo’s south­east, say­ing he had been forced to move homes be­cause of the in­ten­sity of the raids. “The streets are full of peo­ple un­der the rub­ble. They are dy­ing be­cause we can’t get them out,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ob­ser­va­tory, nine civil­ians were killed yes­ter­day in a bar­rage of rebel rocket fire on gov­ern­ment-con­trolled neigh­bor­hoods. The fresh at­tacks brought to 129 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 39 chil­dren, the num­ber of peo­ple killed by rebel fire on regime-held west Aleppo since Novem­ber 15.

An­other 413 civil­ians, among them 45 chil­dren, have been killed in east Aleppo in the same pe­riod. With the fight­ing in­ten­si­fy­ing af­ter a brief respite, the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly de­manded an im­me­di­ate cease­fire and ur­gent aid de­liv­er­ies, in a res­o­lu­tion adopted by a strong ma­jor­ity. But both Moscow and Da­m­as­cus have re­jected talk of a cease­fire without a rebel with­drawal from the city-a de­mand that op­po­si­tion groups have re­fused.

Af­ter meet­ing with op­po­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives yes­ter­day, French For­eign Min­is­ter JeanMarc Ayrault said the op­po­si­tion was will­ing to re­sume peace talks “without pre-con­di­tions.” Kerry was not up­beat about the chances of suc­cess ahead of the meet­ings in Paris and Geneva. “I know peo­ple are tired of these meet­ings, I’m tired of these meet­ings,” he said. “But what am I sup­posed to do? Go home and have a nice week­end... while peo­ple are dy­ing? Sit there in Wash­ing­ton and do noth­ing?”

2,000 more flee

Tens of thou­sands have fled east Aleppo in re­cent weeks, with an­other 2,000 civil­ians pour­ing out of the re­main­ing rebel-held dis­tricts yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to the Ob­ser­va­tory. State news agency SANA also re­ported the dis­place­ment, but gave a num­ber of 3,000 peo­ple and said they had been taken to the tem­po­rary shel­ter in Jib­rin, about 10 kilo­me­ters east of Aleppo.

The UN said Fri­day it had re­ceived re­ports of rebels block­ing some from leav­ing and of reprisals against res­i­dents who asked armed groups to leave. It has also ex­pressed con­cern about re­ports that hun­dreds of men had gone miss­ing af­ter flee­ing to gov­ern­ment-held ter­ri­tory. The fall of east Aleppo would be the big­gest blow for the rebels since Syria’s con­flict broke out in 2011.

It be­gan as a wide­spread protest move­ment against As­sad’s regime but has since evolved into an all-out war that has seen ji­hadists like the Is­lamic State group rise to promi­nence. Yes­ter­day, the US-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces an­nounced “phase two” of the cam­paign for the Is­lamic State group’s bas­tion of Raqa. US De­fence Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter an­nounced Wash­ing­ton was send­ing an ad­di­tional 200 troops to join the 300 it has al­ready de­ployed in sup­port of the of­fen­sive.


PARIS: US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry (L) and France’s For­eign Min­is­ter Jean Marc Ayrault (R) give a press con­fer­ence af­ter a meet­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.