UN chief ‘ap­palled’ by Aleppo es­ca­la­tion

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is “ap­palled by the chill­ing mil­i­tary es­ca­la­tion” in the em­bat­tled Syr­ian city of Aleppo, his spokesman says. Stephane Du­jar­ric said the sec­re­tary-gen­eral was alarmed by re­ports of air strikes in­volv­ing in­cen­di­ary weapons and bunker-bust­ing bombs. The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has stepped up strikes on rebel-held ar­eas of the city since a cease­fire col­lapsed last week. The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is due to meet in New York. The meet­ing was re­quested by the US, the UK and France. Mean­while, UK For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son has sug­gested that a deadly at­tack on an aid con­voy in Syria last week could have been de­lib­er­ately car­ried out by Rus­sian air­craft. If so, he said it could amount to a war crime. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was “not only... hand­ing [Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar] As­sad the re­volver. “He is in some in­stances ac­tu­ally fir­ing the re­volver him­self.” Rus­sia has de­nied car­ry­ing out the at­tack, blam­ing in­stead rebel ar­tillery. Mr Du­jar­ric said in a state­ment: “Since the an­nounce­ment two days ago by the Syr­ian army of an of­fen­sive to cap­ture east­ern Aleppo, there have been re­peated re­ports of air strikes in­volv­ing the use of in­cen­di­ary weapons and ad­vanced mu­ni­tions such as bunker-buster bombs. “The sec­re­tary-gen­eral con­sid­ers this a dark day for the global com­mit­ment to pro­tect civil­ians.” The north­ern city of Aleppo has be­come a key bat­tle­ground in Syria’s bloody five-year civil war. Last Tues­day, Mr Ban launched a sting­ing at­tack on the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment, say­ing it had killed the most civil­ians in the con­flict. Mean­while, Syr­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Walid al-Moalem has said that gov­ern­ment forces are mak­ing great strides against “ter­ror­ism”. He told the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly in New York on Satur­day that his be­lief in vic­tory was now greater than ever. Syria refers to all rebel groups try­ing to over­throw Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad as ter­ror­ists. Ear­lier, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said that any re­vival of the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties in Syria could not de­pend on uni­lat­eral con­ces­sions by his coun­try alone. He said there had to be a col­lec­tive ef­fort in­volv­ing all sides. The UN says the at­tacks on Aleppo have left nearly two mil­lion peo­ple with­out wa­ter. Unicef, the UN chil­dren’s agency, has warned that fierce air strikes on Fri­day stopped re­pairs to a dam­aged wa­ter pump­ing sta­tion sup­ply­ing rebel-held east­ern dis­tricts of the city. In re­tal­i­a­tion, Unicef says, a nearby sta­tion pump­ing wa­ter to the west of Aleppo has been switched off. Unicef spokesman Kieran Dwyer said wa­ter was be­ing used as a weapon of war by all sides. He said res­i­dents now had to re­sort to con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and were at risk from wa­ter­borne dis­eases. UK-based group mon­i­tor­ing the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said 25 peo­ple were killed in fresh bom­bard­ments on Satur­day. Ac­tivists say both Syr­ian and Rus­sian war­planes are tak­ing part in the lat­est of­fen­sive, though Rus­sia has not con­firmed its in­volve­ment. Rus­sia sup­ports the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment, while the US backs the op­po­si­tion. The two pow­ers ac­cuse each other of fail­ing to rein in their re­spec­tive al­lies on the ground.

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