At Least 26 Killed in Aleppo as UN Meets Over Syria
Philip Issa, Edith Lederer, AP, Sep 25 2016
BEIRUT/ UN — At least 26 civilians were killed in fresh government airstrikes on the contested city of Aleppo, Syrian activists said Sunday, as the UNSC convened an emergency meeting on the spiraling violence in Syria but failed to take any action because of deep divisions between Russia and the Western powers. Pindostan, Britain and France, who called the emergency meeting, heaped blame on Moscow for supporting the Syrian offensive. When Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was called to speak in the UNSC, the ambassadors of the three Western powers walked out in protest. They had demanded a halt to the Aleppo offensive and immediate UNSC action, and their walk-out demonstrated anger and frustration not only at Damascus but also at Russia for backing Assad’s military campaign while talking about reviving a cessation of hostilities. Samantha Power said:
What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it’s barbarism. It’s apocalyptic what is being done in eastern Aleppo. Pindostan knows that Russia has consistently said one thing, and done the opposite. But we also believe we must do everything in our power to find a way to halt the violence. That is why, even now, we will continue to look for any way possible to restore the cessation of hostilities.
As the government offensive entered its fourth day on Sunday, medical workers and local officials reported airstrikes on neighborhoods throughout Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern districts. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 26 civilians had been killed by 7:30 p.m. and said it expects the toll to rise. Ibrahim Alhaj of the
Syrian Civil Defense search and rescue outfit White Helmets gave a higher toll, saying hospitals and rescuers had documented the deaths of 43 people so far on Sunday. The SOHR said earlier in the day that 213 civilians had been killed by airstrikes and shelling on opposition areas in and around Aleppo since the ceasefire collapsed Monday evening. Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and medical workers are expecting many of the wounded to die from a lack of treatment, according to Mohammad Zein Khandaqani, a member of the Medical Council, which oversees medical affairs in the city’s opposition quarters (another propaganda cadre – RB). He said from a hospital in the city:
I’ve never seen so many people dying in once place. It’s terrifying today. In less than one hour, the Russian planes have killed more than 50 people and injured more than 200.
Conflicting casualty estimates are common in the aftermath of clashes and attacks in Syria. At the start of the UNSC meeting, de Mistura said:
The offensive against eastern Aleppo, where up to 275,000 people have been under a form of de facto siege for almost 20 days, followed the coalition’s bombing of Syrian troops, which Washington called a tragic mistake, and a deadly attack on a UN convoy carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid. But no incident, irrespective of whether it can be attributed or not, does justify what is going on in front of our own eyes: the unraveling of the cessation of hostilities and the simultaneous unleashing of unprecedented military violence affecting innocent civilians as well. (I urge Pindostan and Russia) to go that extra mile to see if they can save their agreement of Sep 9 and do so at the eleventh hour. I urge the UNSC to press for a cessation of hostilities, weekly 48-hour pauses to deliver aid, and medical evacuations for several urgent cases in eastern Aleppo. Syrians and the international community are swiftly losing any remaining hope with Washington and Moscow unless we salvage what was agreed on. All we can expect from Aleppo if the Syrian government is intent on retaking it is a slow, grinding, street-by-street fight, over the course of months if not years, whereby the ancient city will be almost completely destroyed. A so-called military ‘solution’ or victory in Syria is impossible, including in Aleppo.
After the meeting ended, he told reporters:
Everything hangs in the balance right now. What happens next depends on the Russians and Pindosis.
Russian Ambassador Vitali Churkin blamed Syria’s rebels for sabotaging the ceasefire agreement by using the lull to shore up their forces, and he accused the Western coalition of failing to separate the moderate factions it backs from “terrorist” groups, especially Nusra (Fateh al-Sham). Churkin said:
In Syria, hundreds of armed groups are being armed. The territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately. Bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now. Of course, I would like this very much to be our aim, as well as the renewal of negotiations. But Russia first wants to see a sincere desire by the coalition to separate the moderate opposition from Nusra.
While intra-Syria negotiations remain the aim of the Western powers and Russia, a broad coalition of 33 Syrian rebel factions issued a statement Sunday saying:
Negotiations under the present conditions are no longer useful and are meaningless.
The opposition groups said they won’t accept any Russian mediation, calling Moscow a “partner to the regime in the crimes against our people.” They also called on the government and Russian forces to halt airstrikes and lift sieges on opposition areas. On the sidelines of the meeting, Ban Ki-moon urged an end to the offensive, saying:
They are not busting bunkers, they are demolishing ordinary people looking for any last refuge of safety. International law is clear. The systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas is a war crime.
Prior to the start of the UNSC meeting, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia should be investigated for war crimes following the attack on the aid convoy that claimed 20 lives. And French Foreign Minister Ayrault said that Russia and Iran will be guilty of war crimes if they don’t pressure Assad to stop escalating violence. On a positive note, a set of four towns, two besieged by government forces and two by rebels, were reached by aid convoys for the first time in nearly six months on Sunday, the ICRC announced. The organization said it had reached 60,000 residents trapped in the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Foua, and Kafraya.
Water flowing again in western Aleppo
ITV News, Sep Sep 25 2016
Water is flowing again in the western part of Aleppo, but a water pumping station in the east remains damaged, according to UNICEF.
Earlier the agency had warned the lack of running water in the city had put people at risk of “catastrophic outbreaks” of waterborne diseases. Syrian government and rebel forces battled for control of high ground on the Aleppo outskirts on Saturday as warplanes relentlessly bombed the city’s east. Heavy air strikes on Saturday morning hit at least four areas of the opposition-held east, killing 54 by lunchtime, according to rebels. The attacks on Saturday follow the deaths of 91 people in the east in the second day of intense bombings described by an expert as “nothing short of Armageddon.” A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said he was “appalled by the chilling military escalation” in Aleppo. Speaking at the UN, Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Mouallem said:
The Syrian army is making great strides in its war against terrorism, with the support of the true friends of the Syrian people, notably the Russian Federation, Iran and the Lebanese national resistance (Hezbollah – RB).
Aid delivered to four besieged towns in Syria: ICRC
Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters, Sep 25 2016
Seventy trucks of humanitarian aid were delivered on Sunday to four besieged towns in Syria for the first time in almost six months, the ICRC said. Convoys were delivered to Madaya and Zabdani near Damascus and to the villages of al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province in the north west. Madaya, near the border with Lebanon, has a population of around 40,000 and has been besieged by Syrian government-allied forces for around six month. Zabadani has 1,000 people left. Kefraya and al-Foua, in Idlib province in north-west Syria, have around 20,000 people, according to UN estimates, and have been surrounded by insurgents since Apr 2015. Last Thursday UN relief operations in Syria resumed after a 48-hour suspension due to a deadly attack. The world body suspended land deliveries after a 31-truck convoy was attacked last Monday at Urem al-Kubra in western Aleppo. The SARC says a staff member and around 20 civilians were killed and a warehouse destroyed.