A meeting was held on the 18th of this month between representatives of the United States, Russia and the United Nations to discuss the humanitarian situation in Aleppo and ways to alleviate the suffering of the population in and around the besieged city.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, ended the meeting after eight minutes, saying that it made “no sense” to plan aid deliveries when they would not be let into besieged areas. He was demanding a 48 hour ceasefire in and around Aleppo, thereby implicitly rejecting a Russian offer of a daily three hour pause and humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave eastern Aleppo, under rebels’ control.
According to ABC News, about two million people in and around the city lack regular access to electricity and water. The city health infrastructure is collapsing. Eight out of 10 hospitals and 13 out of 28 healthcare centers are either out of service or only partially functioning. Human Rights Watch documented last week six airstrikes by Syrian and Russian planes in the rebel-held province of Idlib and parts of Aleppo that temporarily shut down the health facilities and killed at least 17 civilians.
Aleppo lives under relentless aerial bombardment, with 60 to 70 sorties daily from Russian and Syrian Air force, revealing the determination of the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis to impose their “political” solution to the Syrian conflict by military might. The recent upsurge in airstrikes is happening at the same time of continuous American-Russian “technical” consultations with no results in sight.
The UN called for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo, but Russia rejected an extended pause, arguing that it will serve the “terrorists” to improve their positions. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister has left talks in Russia disappointed, after his push for a longer ceasefire in Syria’s Aleppo didn’t get a positive response. Even the three hour ceasefire didn’t materialize. The fighting persisted due to Assad’s forces’ attempt to use the lull to their advantage. The UN envoy admitted that no humanitarian aid has been able to reach Aleppo.
Despite the escalating suffering of the population in Aleppo, the chances of some relief are dim, due to the continuous differences between Russians and Americans. Even the expected meeting this week between John Kerry and Serguey Lavrov on Syria won’t have tangible results. The conditions for relief assistance and humanitarian corridors proposed by Moscow imply the necessity to deal with the Syrian regime to implement them, and that means very long negotiations, which the Assad representatives won’t rush to secure their success.
The latest Turkish position regarding Assad as one of the players will be invested by Russia to harden its conditions on humanitarian assistance. As for the Europeans, they won’t object to dealing with the facts as they are. Maybe that will spare them more refugees and terrorism.
In the last 150 days of the Obama administration, the Americans are sticking to their non-policy in Syria, trying to limit their losses, leaving the lead for Russia, sometimes expressing their verbal reservations. The Russians and their allies are trying hard to impose their laws, taking advantage of the American moment of detachment to face the next U.S. president with a de facto situation on the ground, where the balance of force is definitely to their advantage.
After the painful picture last year of Syrian toddler Alan, who’s body was washed on the Turkish cost, the world was terrified last week by the scene of another Syrian child, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh. The boy’s stunned and bloodied face was pulled from the rubble along with his family after an airstrike bomb destroyed the building where they lived. His older brother didn’t have the chance to survive. His story sums up the horror of Aleppo these days.
Gaining control of the city is the main military aim of the Syrian regime and its allies. Crimes and distortion are committed to this end. While the Russians announce that their attacks are against ISIS, American military officials say publicly that they do not see ISIS’ presence in and around Aleppo, which means that Russian airstrikes are actually targeting the various anti-Assad groups. According to their own videos, the Russians are dropping unguided gravity bombs leading to indiscriminate bombing and more civilian casualties. Amnesty International reported the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces on at least three occasions during a two week period in August, using chlorine gas that killed four people and inured 60, 40 of whom were children.
Another report from the Human Rights watch, last week, alleges that incendiary weapons were used by Syrians and Russians at least 18 times in the past nine weeks around Aleppo, although Russia is signatory to an agreement by 113 countries that forbid the use of incendiary weapons in areas with concentration of civilians.
The United Nations and humanitarian organizations are calling for a diplomatic solution to the worst crisis after WWII. They call for the respect of humanitarian law among combatants. They call world governments and nations to help those who need help. They feel helpless and they want the citizens of the world to express their outrage against the indifference toward a tragedy of immense dimensions. We join our voice with theirs.