By Astrid Zweynert and Umberto Bacchi
LONDON, Dec 14 – A plan to evacuate civilians from eastern Aleppo stalled on Wednesday as renewed air strikes and shelling rocked the city.
A ceasefire brokered on Tuesday by Russia and Turkey was intended to end years of fighting in the city, giving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad his biggest victory in more than five years of war.
But air strikes, shelling and gunfire erupted on Wednesday and Turkey accused government forces of breaking the truce. Syrian state television said rebel shelling had killed six people.
Here are the views of some aid agencies and human rights organisations on the humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo and their concerns for the conflict in Syria.
RICHARD HAMILTON, CARE INTERNATIONAL REGIONAL SYRIA RESPONSE DIRECTOR:
“Civilians must be permitted a free choice as to whether or not to flee fighting, and do not lose their civilian status should they choose to stay in their homes and with their families.
CARE calls for a desperately needed cessation of hostilities not only for Aleppo, but throughout Syria to both allow humanitarian access and medical evacuation in out of areas, including besieged areas which still contain many hundreds of thousands of people.
We can’t continue to let the Syrian population fear for their future. Syrian humanitarians ask, ‘Aleppo today … which city tomorrow?’
Many are afraid of suffering the same fate as the inhabitants of Aleppo who have been massacred by bombs or those in Daraya who were forcibly evacuated from their city. All they want is to live in peace at home.”
EVITA MOUAWAD, HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS ADVISOR FOR THE MIDDLE EAST, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES (MSF):
“We are also extremely concerned that access to healthcare in east Aleppo has become close to impossible. All the hospitals … have been severely damaged by the bombings in the last months …
The medical staff we are in touch with tell us that they have run out of medical supplies, ranging from very basic supplies such as bandages, to more extensive surgical tools.”
LAMA FAKIH, DEPUTY MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR AT HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:
“It has been heart-wrenching to hear the desperate pleas for protection from civilians stuck in the inferno that is Aleppo. The Syrian authorities should ensure that civilians are allowed to safely leave the city and to go where they want.
The risk of atrocities in Syria is not over with the government takeover of Aleppo. Unless combatants and commanders on all sides can see that there could be consequences for their unlawful actions, we will see more crimes replay themselves in other places.”
ELIZABETH HOFF, WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION REPRESENTATIVE IN SYRIA:
“A large number of these people are injured, sick, exhausted, traumatised and many are wounded. We know that health services in parts of the city they come from were extremely limited and often inaccessible. Given months of neglect, other priorities are to vaccinate children and to treat people with chronic diseases.
People on the move need to have access to health care. We are helping doctors and health personnel to reach as many of these people as possible as fast as possible. This includes the deployment of mobile health clinics and provision of surgical supplies, medicines for acute and chronic diseases.”
LYNN MAALOUF, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR RESEARCH AT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S BEIRUT REGIONAL OFFICE:
“Over the past year Syrian government forces with the support of Russia have ruthlessly targeted civilians and civilian property including hospitals as a strategy of war as a way to empty the city of residents displaying an utterly callous disregard of international law.
As well as ending attacks on civilians at this critical time it is crucial that the Syrian government and its allies, namely Russia and Iran allow U.N. monitors to be deployed to eastern Aleppo to ensure civilians are protected from revenge attacks and unfettered humanitarian access is granted so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.”
PAUL DONOHOE, SENIOR MEDIA OFFICER, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE:
“Escaping Aleppo doesn’t mean escaping the war. After witnessing the ferocity of attacks on civilians in Aleppo, we are understandably concerned that the sieges and barrel bombs will follow the thousands who arrive in Idlib.
We already know Idlib isn’t a safe area of Syria. The attack on a school in Hass in October left 22 children and six teachers dead, and two IRC supported hospitals were attacked in the province in 2016. There is a real danger that such outrages will not only continue but intensify. And unlike with Aleppo, this time the world won’t be watching.”
GEERT CAPPELAERE, UNICEF REGIONAL DIRECTOR:
“Children in east Aleppo have been living for months with the bare minimum to survive. Too many children have been prevented from life saving vaccination. We are seeing more cases of malnutrition. All children have witnessed violence; too many have been confronted directly with the worst of mankind. Many children have been separated from their families.
The only answer to all that innocent suffering is simple: stop the war and put the rights and interest of children at the heart of decision making.”