Aleppo residents at risk of extermination: UN envoy

Srinagar: Residents of Syria’s Aleppo are at risk of extermination and the clock is ticking on the besieged city as winter sets in, a top UN envoy told the Security Council, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday.

Stephen O’Brien, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, made the comments on Wednesday as at least 45 more civilians, including seven children, were killed while trying to flee the government ground offensive in rebel-held east Aleppo, the report said.

“Today there was another massacre, I witnessed it,” Aref al-Aref, a nurse and photographer in the city’s east, was quoted by the report to have said. “The displaced people were coming at 6:30am. There was artillery shelling while they were walking in the streets. Really it was so, so horrible.”

UN envoy urges access to residents of eastern Aleppo as at least 45 civilians killed while fleeing the fighting

More than 20,000 people have fled from there over the past 72 hours as Syrian forces continued to advance in the rebel-held part of the city, according to the Red Cross, the report added.

Terrified civilians have evacuated empty-handed into remaining rebel-held territory, or crossed into government-controlled western Aleppo or Kurdish-held districts, the report said.

“For the sake of humanity we call on – we plead – with the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard,” O’Brien was quoted by the report to have said.

He said aid convoys were ready to roll in from Turkey and western Aleppo, but they needed an end to the siege and protection for civilians, the report said.

The eastern part of Aleppo – which was home to 250,000 people – has been a key rebel stronghold since 2012, the report added.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have carried out the four-month siege to retake control of the city, enjoying military and diplomatic backing from Russia, the report said.

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