Zena Tahhan / Al Jazeera & Peter Yeung / The Independent & Military World – 2016-08-28 01:10:14
Syria War: Aleppo’s Civilians Face Humanitarian Crisis
Zena Tahhan / Al Jazeera
(August 23, 2016) — The humanitarian situation has gravely deteriorated in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo where Syrian government forces and Russian warplanes continue to attack civilian neighbourhoods, according to activists and residents.
“In the last four days, food supplies have close to disappeared from the markets, and prices have skyrocketed,” Salem al-Atrash, a resident in the city, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “You can only rarely find anyone on the streets, because of the intensity of the indiscriminate and barbaric shelling of the Russian and Syrian armies,” he said.
Once Syria’s largest city, Aleppo has been divided between opposition control in the eastern half and government control in the west since mid-2012. Government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive to retake the rebel-held half of the city, imposing a month-long siege that was eventually broken by opposition forces in early August.
Since the end of the siege, unprecedented numbers of civilians have been killed daily by aerial bombardment on the city. According to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a grassroots network of activists across Syria, at least 90 have been killed since Sunday, and more than 200 were recorded dead last week.
“There are always six planes in the sky — four helicopters and two warplanes — for 24 hours a day. There has been no pause in the shelling at all,” said Atrash, who lives in Aleppo with his wife and three children.
‘Apex of Horror’
Addressing the UN Security Council on Monday, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said: “Aleppo has become the apex of horror at its most horrific extent” for the people suffering in the city. “I have underscored that up to 275,000 people in eastern Aleppo have been almost entirely cut off from vital supplies, including food, water, medicine, and electricity for over a month,” he added.
Aleppo’s residents are “living in constant fear of total besiegement”, O’Brien said, while “access also remains extremely difficult to the estimated 1.5 million people in western parts of the city.” Activists on the ground say the escalation in aerial bombardment has followed the Assad regime’s loss of significant strategic territory in the city.
A coalition of rebels, calling themselves the Army of Conquest, claimed to have captured a military base as well as an armament school and an artillery school in the Ramosa quarter of Aleppo earlier this month. The rebels reportedly then used the captured base to launch their offensive to break the regime’s siege of Aleppo.
Ibrahim al-Hajj, media centre director in Aleppo for the Syrian Civil Defence, a volunteer rescue group also known as the White Helmets, said civilian infrastructure was increasingly under attack.
“Field hospitals, ambulance and civil defence personnel are being targeted the most in the last few days, especially with cluster bombs,” Hajj told Al Jazeera. “There’s very little movement in the streets, it’s as though Aleppo is besieged again,” Hajj said.
Despite the breaking of the siege, activists say the regime has advanced towards Ramosa, which is one of the main routes that residents in the eastern half of the city are using to flee.
Although some have managed to get out of the city, others understand “the risk associated with trying to leave, and decided to stay,” Atrash said. “There are also families like ours who believe that we do not want to lose our land. We are attached to our country,” he added.
Russia Committing War Crimes by Deliberately Bombing
Civilians and Aid Workers, Says Amnesty International
Peter Yeung / The Independent
(February 21, 2016) — Russia is guilty of committing some of the most “egregious” war crimes seen in decades, Amnesty International has claimed. The leading human rights organisation said Moscow’s air force has not only been targeting civilians and aid workers in Syria over the last week, but that warplanes have been deliberately attacking those attempting to treat the victims.
Tirana Hassan, director of Amnesty’s crisis response programme, told Sky News: “We’ve documented strikes on schools, strikes on hospitals and civilian homes. And one of the most egregious parts of what Russia and the Syrian forces are doing is that they’re bombing these civilian targets when it itself is a war crime.
“But then they’ve been looping around — and this is a consistent report, that there are second bombardments — which are then injuring and killing humanitarian workers and just civilians who are going in to evacuate the wounded and the dead.”
The Kremlin has in the past rejected suggestions that it has intentionally been hitting civilian zones, insisting that it is only dropping bombs on terrorist targets. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s official spokesperson denied the country is guilty of war crimes, dismissing them as “unfounded accusations”.
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s has called for a “no-fly zone” in order to prevent air strikes by all the opposing sides.
Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and former International Development Secretary, said earlier this week that Russia’s air strikes on hospitals and a school were “certainly a war crime”. But Mr. Mitchell said there was “effectively nothing we can do at the moment but they can be held to account in the future.”
Russia is one of the only countries to openly support the Syrian President, who the West wants to see permanently removed to usher in a new government and end the bitter civil war.
More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced over the course of the conflict — amounting to around 11 million people.
In Pictures: Russian air strikes in Syria
Russian Air Strikes in Syria
(October 18, 2015) — Russian attack jets have hit 51 Islamic State targets in Syria in the past 24 hours, including four command posts, six arms depots, a mortar battery, two underground bunkers, 32 field camps and six outposts.
The strikes took place in the Latakia, Aleppo, Hama and Damascus provinces. The damage the Russian SU-34 jets caused to the underground bunkers was especially significant, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.
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