United Nations calls for humanitarian pause in Syria's Aleppo fighting

Cheryl Sanders
August 10, 2016

Government forces and their allies last month cut a main rebel supply route leading from the north of Aleppo into opposition-held east of the city, effectively putting those areas under siege.

The Syrian conflict started with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but it quickly evolved into a full-on civil war that has continued without pause for five years.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the Syria peace talks urgently need to get back on track but "the environment for talks also has to be right".

Al-Nusra Front used the neighboring city of Idlib as a staging ground for the battle against Syrian government forces in Aleppo since a counteroffensive was begun last weekend. "At a minimum, the United Nations requires a full-fledged ceasefire or weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses to reach the millions of people in need throughout Aleppo and replenish the food and medicine stocks, which are running dangerously low". More than 2 million people are trapped in the city and its surroundings and we risk facing one of the worst human tragedies of the entire Syrian war.

The well and tank water in Aleppo, "is not almost enough to sustain the needs of the population", according Yacoub El Hillo, U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis. Their advance severed the primary government supply corridor running into the city from the south and raised the prospect that government-held western Aleppo might in turn become besieged by the insurgents.

"Civilian infrastructure like electricity and water pumping stations must never be attacked".

They say that since the militants' offensive, the total number of civilians living in "de facto fear of besiegement" has increased to over two million.

Emboldened by their recent win, the rebel alliance on Sunday announced an ambitious bid to capture all of Aleppo city, which if successful would mark the biggest opposition victory yet in Syria's conflict.

At least 250,000 people are believed to have been trapped in rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo since the key Castello Road access into the area was closed by government forces in early July.

Citing U.N. figures, Power said Syrian government forces were to blame for almost 80 percent of the besieged areas throughout Syria.

"The one big part of this move is that it highlights Russia's longstanding plans to remain in Syria long-term, despite declaring that the bulk of its forces would retreat earlier this year", Keir Giles, Russian military expert at United Kingdom think tank Chatham House says.

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