UN Syria Envoy Sees Dire Future for Aleppo – Voice of America

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The United Nations envoy for Syria offered a dire prediction for the future of Aleppo on Tuesday, as fighting in the city continued to intensify and more civilians tried to escape.

“Clearly, I cannot deny — this is a military acceleration and I can’t tell you how long eastern Aleppo will last,” Staffan de Mistura said during remarks to the European Parliament. “There is a constant increase of movement on the military side.”

The warning came on the heels of a Syrian government offensive that has forced nearly 16,000 people to flee their homes, and thousands more could follow, according to the U.N.

The increase in fighting intensity forced many civilians to flee their homes empty-handed, a situation U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called “alarming and chilling.”

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said scores of civilians reportedly had been killed or injured and that civilian infrastructure had been deliberately destroyed. “It is likely that thousands more will have no choice but to flee, should fighting continue to spread and intensify over the coming days,” he said.

The World Food Program distributed its last stock of food rations to the people of eastern Aleppo on November 13. WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said once the agency got the go-ahead, it wanted to send in food to eastern Aleppo from its warehouses in the western part of the city.

“We have 30,000 family food rations in west Aleppo, 20,000 ready-to-eat food rations in Qamishli,” Luescher said.

The U.N. refugee agency said it had emergency stocks on hand for 45,000 people in western Aleppo and was ready to move more supplies, such as blankets, tents and sheets to help the displaced people in western Aleppo keep warm during the winter months.

Call for council meeting

Britain and France have called for an immediate U.N. Security Council meeting on the recent increase in hostilities. A meeting was possible Tuesday but seen as more likely Wednesday.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin criticized the Western call for a meeting as a “propaganda campaign.”

“The regime and their supporters have decided to accelerate their barbaric military strategy against their own population to retake eastern Aleppo, whatever the cost in terms of human lives,” French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters. “In these tragic circumstances, France and its partners cannot remain silent in the face of what could be one of the biggest massacres of civilian populations since WWII.”

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said that diplomatic solutions were needed to end the crisis in the Syrian city.

“The only way Aleppo can be saved and the conflict in Syria can end is if the regime and backers — by which I mean Russia and Iran above all — change their policy,” he said. “The future of Aleppo is in the hands of the [Syrian] regime and Russia. We urge regime and Russia to stop the bombing, let aid through, call a cease-fire and eventually to get political talks back on track.”

While east Aleppo has been under government siege for more than four months, the army began heavily bombarding the city two weeks ago and on Monday night took control of a key district.

This Nov. 27, 2016, photo provided by the Rumaf, a Syrian Kurdish activist group, shows people fleeing rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo into the Sheikh Maqsoud area that is controlled by Kurdish fighters.

This Nov. 27, 2016, photo provided by the Rumaf, a Syrian Kurdish activist group, shows people fleeing rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo into the Sheikh Maqsoud area that is controlled by Kurdish fighters.

“It’s a fight to take the city back,” Russia’s Churkin told reporters.

“It was an untenable situation which could not exist indefinitely,” he said of shelling from eastern Aleppo into the western side of the city. “It was impossible to maintain the situation indefinitely. Now, I suppose, it is leaning in the direction of the government taking back the control of the whole of the city.”

Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 civilians had been killed in an airstrike in Bab al-Nairab, one of the eastern districts still held by rebel forces.

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