Haunting image of Syrian boy rescued from Aleppo rubble
GENEVA // Relentlless fighting in Syria means no aid has reached besieged areas with desperately needed food and medicine for the past month, said UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.
Clearly frustrated by the failure of the warring parties to cease hostilities long enough for vital aid to reach civilians, Mr de Mistura cut short the weekly meeting of the Geneva-based humanitarian task force, which is headed by the United States and Russia.
“Not one single humanitarian convoy in one month has reached any of the besieged areas,” he said.
Thursday’s task force meeting lasted just eight minutes before it was “suspended”, de Mistura said, explaining that the move was symbolic and that the group would meet again next week.
The severity of the crisis in Syria was highlighted by the haunting video footage of a five-year-old boy rescued from the rubble after a devastating air raid on Aleppo. The video clip, which was released by the pro-opposition Aleppo Media Centre and swiftly went viral, shows little Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance, covered in dust and blood from a head wound, with an expression of utter bewilderment on his face. He was brought to hospital with a head wound but suffered no injury to his brain. His parents and three sibling, aged 11, six and one year, also survived the Russian air raid which killed eight people, including five children, in Qaterji, a rebel-held district of Aleppo. The building where Omran’s family lived collapsed minutes after they were all pulled free.
Doctors in Aleppo have to use code names for hospitals because they say they have been systematically targeted in government air strikes and fear infiltrators will pass on information about ambulances transferring patients from one hospital to another.
Activists living in opposition areas rely on informers in the government-controlled Latakia province to warn residents of impending air strikes. On Wednesday evening, an informant in Latakia informed activist networks that a jet had taken off from the Russian airbase at Hmeimim.
“We expected the plane to arrive in Aleppo airspace in two minutes, and sure enough it did. it struck twice,” said photojournalist Mahmoud Raslan, who took the photograph of Omran.
Mr de Mistura reissued the United Nations’ call for a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause in hostilities in Aleppo “as a gesture of humanity”. An estimated 1.5 million civilians are trapped as fierce fighting rages between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the opposition.
Aleppo, Syria’s second city and former economic hub, has became a prime concern for the UN and other aid agencies ever since troops loyal to the regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July. After Mr de Mistura made his appeal, Russia said it was prepared to comply with a 48-hour ceasefire as early as next week.
The UN envoy said the 17 countries that comprise the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG) and sit on the special task force would meet again later in the day to discuss the issue.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says a 48-hour humanitarian pause would be “a welcome first step” if all combatants agree., but what was most needed across Syria was a ceasefire. The UN is in touch with parties on the ground and called on them to allow “safe, unimpeded, impartial humanitarian access.” Lorries loaded with food, water and medicine were ready to move ‘Immediately” and there are ambulances on standby ready to evacuate urgent medical cases.
M Haq said it was the UN’s hope that a 48-hour halt would help produce “the right atmosphere” for UN’s envoy Mr de Mistura to resume political talks with the Syrian government and opposition by the end of August. “otherwise,” said Mr Haq, “there’s no point in holding the talks.”
Meanwhile, in a new departure for the war in Syria, opposition activists and a Kurdish spokesman said Syrian government warplanes bombed Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.
Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the main Kurdish fighting force, said bombs hit residential areas and Kurdish police position in the northern city of Hassakeh on Thursday. The attack resulted in multiple casualties and sent residents fleeing from the city. Khalil added that government forces will be held accountable for these “brutal, blatant attacks against our people.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported government warplanes had struck Kurdish positions in the city.
The two sides have clashed before on several occasions but it was the first reported aerial bombardment of Kurdish positions in the city by the government.
* Associated Press
Published: August 18, 2016 04:00 AM