Over 100 Children Among 338 Killed in Aleppo Attacks This Week, WHO Says
Hwaida Saad, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Anne Barnard, Neil MacFarquhar, NYT, Sep 30 2016
BEIRUT/ PARIS/ FASCHINGSTEIN — An array of groups allied with the Syrian government pressed an assault on rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Friday, as the WHO said heavy bombardment of the area by Russia and Syria had killed 338 people in the last week, including more than 100 children. With more of the city’s already limited hospitals destroyed in the latest offensive, Dr Richard Brennan, the organization’s director of emergency response, told reporters that many of the 846 people wounded were expected to die for lack of treatment. That includes 261 children, he said. There were competing claims about the success of the government’s offensive on Friday, with the government saying its fighters had captured more territory in northern parts of the city and penetrated the center of Aleppo, where they were clashing with the rebels. Rebel commanders denied the reports, saying government forces had not made any progress since capturing the Handarat refugee camp north of the city on Thursday. On Friday, the rebels said the government bombed the main water plant that supplies the area. Russia has defended its actions as necessary to thwart terrorists. Sergey Lavrov told the BBC on Friday that Russian forces were not using “any munition which is prohibited by the UN.” Lavrov said that Russia was taking “all necessary precautions” not to hit civilians, and that “If this happens, then we are very sorry.” Lavrov said that Washington had “pledged solemnly to take as a priority an obligation to separate the opposition from Nusra,” but that it had shown that it was “not able or not willing to do this.” Jackass Kerry this week threatened to end talks on Syria unless the bombing stopped. Abu Anas of Nusra said Friday that the brutal attacks were actually helping their cause by radicalizing the population. Friday was the first anniversary of Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, an occasion that prompted a number of reports on civilian casualties in Russian airstrikes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, put the figure at 3,189, while Airwars has said that at least 3,000 have died. Until a few days ago, eastern Aleppo had eight working hospitals, but its two biggest medical centers came under attack this week and were no longer functioning, said Brennan of the WHO. Four children died from their wounds in the last few days, Brennan said, because of a shortage of space in intensive care units. As of two days ago, the UN believed that there were 35 doctors struggling to keep up with the flow of casualties but Dr Brennan said it now believed that there were only 30. He said:
These guys are exhausted, they are drained physically and emotionally.
The UN has drawn up plans for evacuations and identified hospitals in northern Syria that could receive the wounded. But those plans have been held in abeyance because of the intense fighting, the absence of assurances of safe passage and the lack of a green light from the government. A convoy of trucks carrying aid to besieged Syrians was attacked on Sep 19, killing about 20 people, and preventing food, blankets and clothing from reaching people in rebel-held areas of Aleppo. Ban Ki-moon announced Friday that he would establish a board of inquiry to investigate the attack on the convoy. UN boxtops have said the attack could be a war crime. The UN has medicines and medical equipment in position and ready to move to besieged Syrians in east Aleppo, Brennan said Friday, but the aid cannot get into the city. Brennan described conditions in the city as “beyond unimaginable.” He said:
We are asking for four things: stop the killing, stop attacks on health care, let the sick and wounded out, and let the aid in. The message is simple. We hope this time it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.