UN con­demns ‘des­cent into hell’ as civil­ians flee

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE UN has con­demned the “des­cent into hell” be­ing en­dured by civil­ians in Aleppo, with the Red Cross say­ing nearly 20,000 peo­ple have fled a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive on the city in three days.

The fight­ing has prompted an ex­o­dus of ter­ri­fied civil­ians, many flee­ing empty-handed into re­main­ing rebel-held ter­ri­tory, or cross­ing into gov­ern­ment-con­trolled west Aleppo or Kur­dish dis­tricts.

Up to 20,000 peo­ple have fled the regime of­fen­sive in the past 72 hours, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross said, adding the fig­ure was an es­ti­mate and the sit­u­a­tion re­mained fluid as “peo­ple are flee­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions”.

East Aleppo has been un­der siege for more than four months, with in­ter­na­tional aid stocks ex­hausted and food sup­plies run­ning low.

World Food Pro­gram spokesper­son Bet­tina Luescher said civil­ians were en­dur­ing a “slow mo­tion des­cent into hell”.

The French UN am­bas­sador Fran­cois De­lat­tre said, “France and its part­ners can­not re­main silent in the face of what could be one of the big­gest mas­sacres of civil­ian pop­u­la­tion since World War II”.

Gov­ern­ment forces have ad­vanced swiftly in their two-week op­er­a­tion, cap­tur­ing all of the city’s north­east in a ma­jor blow to the op­po­si­tion.

The loss of their east Aleppo strong­hold would be the worst de­feat for rebels since Syria’s con­flict erupted more than five years ago.

The op­po­si­tion has steadily lost ter­ri­tory in re­cent months to gov­ern­ment forces bol­stered by the Rus­sian mil­i­tary since Septem­ber 2015.

Moscow says it is not in­volved in the Aleppo of­fen­sive, but a Rus­sian de­fence min­istry spokesper­son said Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces had seized “nearly half the ter­ri­tory oc­cu­pied by rebels in east Aleppo in re­cent years”.

“The op­er­a­tions of the Syr­ian army have rad­i­cally changed the sit­u­a­tion over the past 24 hours,” said Gen­eral Igor Konashenkov.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in­structed his gov­ern­ment to set up mo­bile field hos­pi­tals around Aleppo, the Krem­lin said.

More than 250 civil­ians have been killed in the as­sault on east Aleppo since Novem­ber 15, in­clud­ing nearly 30 chil­dren, said the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights.

Save the Chil­dren warned the as­sault was sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies and leav­ing thousands, in­clud­ing chil­dren, home­less and at risk.

On the ground, res­i­dents ex­pressed de­spair and uncer­tainty for the fu­ture, af­ter months of food short­ages and heavy bom­bard­ment.

Syria’s con­flict has killed more than 300,000 peo­ple so far.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was to hold an emer­gency meet­ing late yes­ter­day in New York to dis­cuss the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Aleppo. –

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