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From The Editors

Death and Suffering of Civilians Continue in East Aleppo

In our earlier article on the ongoing situation in war-torn Aleppo, more than three weeks ago, we had written about how hospitals were being targeted, about children dying, and the outrageous human rights violations by Bashar-al- Assad’s forces along with its Russian allies – refer to Hospitals Gone, The Civilians are Stranded. Fear and Destruction Haunt Aleppo

Reportedly, there has been no respite for the thousands of civilians still trapped in the rebel-dominated eastern Aleppo in spite of the Russian-brokered ceasefire declaration on Tuesday.

However, the deal to evacuate rebel fighters and civilians went sour the very next day. Wednesday witnessed the already ravaged region come under renewed attacks and shelling by the combined forces of Syria and its partners.

It was a merciless assault and gross human rights violation leaving in its wake hundreds and thousands maimed or dead, with tens of thousands of civilians stranded without medical aid and not much to look forward to.

The Syrian state forces with the support of Russian air raids, Shiite militias, and fighters from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Pakistan are on a relentless offensive against the predominantly Sunni rebel groups among reports and rumors that the rebels have received financial backing from countries including The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Rebels have been steadily losing ground to government forces assisted by their brothers in arms. Aleppo, the fourth largest city in Syria, is on the verge of a complete takeover by the Syrian regime.

Civilian of the east of #Aleppo waiting in the streets .. as the buses aren't enough for all of them at once
Civilian of the east of Aleppo waiting in the streets as the buses aren’t enough for all of them at once

Indeed, the fresh wave of concerted attacks indicates that a final push is underway for a complete takeover by government forces.

The director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group, Rami Abdulrahman said, “The clashes are violent and bombardment is very heavy… it seems as though everything [the ceasefire] is finished.”

Russia, by the way, has blamed the rebels of breaking the truce and evacuation deal by attacking government-controlled parts of Aleppo killing six people in the bargain.

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said on Tuesday, “”The secretary-general is alarmed by reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in recent hours in Aleppo,”

“The opposition is describing the situation in besieged areas as catastrophic,” Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported from Antakya in Turkey.

“They are issuing an urgent appeal to evacuate civilians who are trapped in besieged areas,” she said. “Tens of thousands of people are believed to be in a very small pocket of territory coming under intense bombardment.”

“The reports we had are of people being shot in the street trying to flee and shot in their homes,” UN human rights office spokesperson Rupert Colville said. “We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner.” He called it “a complete meltdown of humanity.”

If Colville’s figures are to be believed, 13 children and 11 women were among the 82 civilians killed on Monday itself.

According to Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF regional director, “According to alarming reports from a doctor in the city, many children, possibly more than 100, unaccompanied or separated from their families, are trapped in a building under heavy attack in east Aleppo.”

After Tuesday’s truce declaration, hundreds of trapped residents had assembled in the streets, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in the hope of finally being saved from the horrendous ordeal they had been subjected to for weeks. However, once news of the truce falling apart became evident distressful messages were sent:

Mohammed Abu Jaafar, the head of east Aleppo’s forensic authority’s desperate plea for help read, “For those who still have some humanity left please save us,” he said. “The international community has mocked us, Russia has mocked us, Iran has mocked us.”

“The injured and the dead are lying on the ground; there are no cars or anything to help rescue them. We beg you, we beg you, we beg you.”

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From The Editors Politics

Hospitals Gone, The Civilians are Stranded. Fear and Destruction Haunt Aleppo

Ever since the Syrian government and its Russian allies initiated a renewed bombing operation on eastern Aleppo, several hospitals have been damaged by multiple bombardments. Hundreds of people have lost their lives since Tuesday amid the latest airstrikes by Syrian and Russian forces.

The target of the latest airstrikes by Syria and allies seem to be hospitals, in particular, aimed at destroying the morale of the rebels with the apparent intent of cutting them off from hospitals and medical access – so it seems!

“I think the value of the hospital—it’s important medically but it’s more important psychologically. When people know there is a place where they can be treated and they feel safe somehow. When they know they’re all out of service, they panic. I think that’s what the regime is trying to do,” says Mohammad Yasser Tabbaa of the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, a group supporting hospitals in rebel-held parts of Syria.

Smoke billows in the government-held side of west Aleppo, on November 20, 2016, following reported rocket fire by the opposition forces that hold the eastern part of the city. (AFP PHOTO/GEORGE OURFALIAN)
Smoke billows in the government-held side of west Aleppo, on November 20, 2016, following reported rocket fire by the opposition forces that hold the eastern part of the city. (AFP PHOTO/GEORGE OURFALIAN)

What the government and its allies seem to be oblivious of, is the fact that the common man; women and children included are suffering as a result. The World Health Organization (WHO) Sunday said no hospitals were functioning inside the besieged city, leaving more than 250,000 people with no access to trauma care and major surgeries.

However, while make-shift hospitals and wayside clinics might still be functional, none of them are fully equipped or staffed to handle the enormity of the aftermath of the air raids unleashed by the allied forces of Syria and Russia.

Airstrikes hit four hospitals in east Aleppo on Friday, leaving no functional hospital in the rebel-held part of the city where approximately 275,000 people live.

“They [health officials] say that they are specifically being targeted to make people give up. In the last few hours, two remaining hospitals have come under intense shelling by the regime,” Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid said. “Activists told us that these are specific targets and civilians have nowhere to go now as medical facilities have been taken out.”

A damaged field hospital room is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area
A damaged field hospital room is seen after airstrikes in a rebel held area. Photo: (REUTERS)

“The relentless bombing of East Aleppo by the Syrian regime in the last few days has now left hundreds of thousands of besieged civilians without access to food and to functioning hospitals,” the European Union’s humanitarian aid commissioner, Christos Stylianides, said.

At least eight children have died by rebel rocket fire that hit a school in government-held west Aleppo on Sunday, reported the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. A family of six was killed in rebel-held eastern Aleppo’s al-Sakhour district in a regime barrel bomb attack, the monitoring group said.

On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar-al- Assad’s regime rejected a United Nations truce proposal which meant Aleppo would remain under opposition control if the rebels retreated from the city. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said the proposal was “completely rejected” as it would amount to a violation of “national sovereignty.”

The Foreign Minister also stressed that the governmental institutions in Aleppo “must be restored” as soon as rebel groups are expelled from the eastern part of the city. “Syria doesn’t accept leaving some 275,000 people in east Aleppo as hostages to 6,000 gunmen,” he said. De Mistura, however, made no remarks after meeting al-Moallem in Damascus.