Both sides of the Aleppo conflict blame each other for the breakdown of Tuesday’s fragile truce, with shelling and bombing blasting eastern Aleppo early Wednesday morning.
Over the last four years, the face of the Syrian civil war has been Aleppo, with Aleppo nearly evenly divided between rebel and pro-government forces until a recent government offensive drove the rebels into a relatively small portion of the city.
Airstrikes and artillery bombardments in eastern Aleppo have shut down most of the essential city functions in the rebel-held areas, including the hospitals and even first aid stations. The Aleppo truce, enacted late Tuesday, was designed to help evacuate civilians from the last rebel stronghold.
However, the Aleppo truce broke down less than 24 hours later, with bombings and artillery strikes resuming on the rebel sections of the city. Each side of the conflict blames the other.
USA Today reports that the Russian Defense Ministry claimed “rebels fired at a convoy of rebels who agreed to be evacuated to the northwestern city of Idlib that was due to leave early Wednesday.”
On the other hand, USA Today states, “Aby Zayd, a legal adviser to Syrian opposition groups, told the AP Wednesday that Iranian militias and the Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah were shelling four opposition-held neighborhoods [in Aleppo]. He said it was ‘clear that the Russians can’t get Iran to abide by the deal.'”
The Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan, has accused the pro-government Syrian forces of being responsible for breaking the Aleppo truce, claiming he will speak with Vladimir Putin shortly.
The shattering of the fragile Aleppo truce is merely the latest in the tragic events within the city. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville stated at a news conference that in eastern Aleppo, “82 civilians had reportedly been killed by pro-government forces, of whom 11 were women and 13 children, adding that the death toll could be much higher,” according to BBC News.
The UN has also received reports from reliable sources that summary executions and on-sight shootings by government-affiliated units have occurred within government-seized portions of Aleppo.
An organization called the White Helmets has been in Aleppo attempting to provide first aid and rescue functions within the city. However, they have run out of most of their medical supplies and struggle to provide even minimal care in Aleppo. NPR reports that the situation is so bad in Aleppo that the White Helmets “can’t give a body count anymore.”
Despite what the UN may want to do in Aleppo, because Russia, one of Assad’s backers, is on the UN Security Council, any efforts the United Nations makes to help Aleppo can be stymied without recourse due to Russia’s veto power.
The original Aleppo truce was forged through diplomatic endeavors between Turkey and Russia. However, with the rapid failure of the truce, it seems questionable whether another will be reached in time to assuage the damage to civilians in eastern Aleppo.
A French statesperson, Herve Mariton, acknowledged how desperate the Aleppo situation is. In a phone interview with NPR, “Mariton says it wouldn’t take much to prevent a massacre, but the West must act immediately: ‘A 5-kilometer corridor with security enforced with our troops — that means French, European, even Americans if need be — for a 24-hour period to help evacuate the people from Aleppo East.'”
The UN is ready to move in to provide assistance to Aleppo’s refugees, but with the broken ceasefire, it will be next to impossible for a peaceful/civilian evacuation of Aleppo to take place. Part of the problem with the evacuation efforts also stems from the civilians’ fears of being detained by the Syrian government and either thrown in prison or forcibly recruited into the military.
A spate of social media “last messages” have also been flowing from eastern Aleppo. Even journalists and children have reportedly sent their last goodbyes via social media.
So what do you think of the situation in Aleppo? What can be done to help the civilians to evacuate? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]