Besieged East Aleppo 'facing famine, total destruction by Christmas'

Besieged East Aleppo 'facing famine, total destruction by Christmas'
Humanitarian supplies are desperately needed in East Aleppo and although rebels in the area have agreed to a UN aid delivery plan to the area, the Syrian regime has not.
4 min read
25 November, 2016
East Aleppo has become the scene of unfathomable suffering and destruction [AFP]
Civilians trapped in rebel-held East Aleppo have less than ten days to receive aid or face starvation and death due to lack of medical supplies and medical care in the area, the head of the Syrian Civil Defence, or “White Helmets” has said. 

"You cannot imagine how the situation is," said Raed Al Saleh in comments to Reuters, speaking on behalf of a group that has rescued thousands of people from bombed buildings during Syria’s civil war explaining that the White Helmets were running out of basic equipment including trucks, diesel fuel, and gas masks. 

"Doctors and the rescue workers in Aleppo are just using what's left of the equipment after bombardments to do whatever they can do," continued Saleh.

Last Saturday, The New Arab reported that all hospitals in East Aleppo had been rendered out of service as a result of Syrian and Russian airstrikes on the area, with one medic based in the area relaying that basic supplies of medicine were running out, and that with medical facilities damaged and destroyed there were increasingly few safe places to treat the wounded. 

You cannot believe how (bad) the situation is.
Raed Al Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defence

Since that date rebels in East Aleppo have agreed to a United Nations plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations, but on Thursday a UN spokesman said that the international organisation had not been given the green light by the Syrian regime or its Russian backers. 

Around 275,000 people are estimated to be trapped in East Aleppo and the onset of winter is likely exacerbate hardships given the lack of basic resources in the area. 

In the last two months Saleh said that the White Helmets had lost 50 percent of their equipment. 

"We have consumed all the stock of first aid kits in our centers and we have consumed all our stock of gas masks. We are concerned that within ten days we may consume all our remaining stock of diesel which is required for the ambulances and the trucks to move," said Saleh, who says that White Helmet teams have responded to around ten chlorine gas attacks in Aleppo in the last ten days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has independently documented two incidents of chlorine attacks in the past fortnight. 

Earlier this month the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in conjunction with the UN concluded in a series of reports that the Syrian regime has been responsible for the use of chlorine barrel bombs against civilians, an accusation that Bashar al-Assad denies. 

I would never underestimate an outgoing U.S. president as a lame duck
Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria

Speaking on Thursday, following rumours that he was preparing to step-down from his position, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura vowed to continue working on the Syria file while expressing concern that Aleppo could be decimated by Christmas if bombardment continues at its current pace. 

De Mistura also expressed hope that the Obama administration would continue to work towards a resolution of the Syrian crisis until its final days in office. 

"I would never underestimate an outgoing US president as a lame duck," said de Mistura in an interview published on Friday in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

However, the UN Syria envoy did concede that the Syrian regime had been emboldened by calls by president-elect Trump to end Washington’s support for the Syrian opposition.

Striking a hopeful tone, de Mistura said he believed Russia was serious about "not wanting to take responsibility for the destruction of eastern Aleppo,” and believed Moscow’s claim that is was not involved in airstrikes in East Aleppo. 

However the UN envoy also noted that Moscow was doing little to prevent the Syrian regime from exacting deadly airstrikes on civilian infrastructures in East Aleppo that have lead to the deaths of hundreds in recent weeks.