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Time Running Out for People of Eastern Aleppo

  • Lisa Schlein

A civilian collects tree branches amid the rubble of a damaged site in the rebel-held besieged Qadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 24, 2016.

A civilian collects tree branches amid the rubble of a damaged site in the rebel-held besieged Qadi Askar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 24, 2016.

The United Nations says time is running out for the 275,000 inhabitants of the besieged northern Syrian city of eastern Aleppo, whose food stocks are depleted. The U.N. warns people will starve if aid convoys are not allowed into the city in coming days.

The last food provided by the World Food Program was distributed to the trapped residents of eastern Aleppo days ago. Now, nothing is left. Repeated requests by the United Nations to send aid convoys into the city have been refused by one or more of the warring parties.

FILE - A man eats food that was distributed as aid in a rebel-held besieged area in Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 6, 2016.

FILE - A man eats food that was distributed as aid in a rebel-held besieged area in Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 6, 2016.

Special Advisor to the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Jan Egeland says there are hopeful signs that all the necessary approvals may soon be forthcoming. He says the U.N. has received written approval in principle by the armed opposition groups in Aleppo. He says Russia has given its verbal support for aid to be delivered.

He says he is waiting for written confirmation from Russia and for a positive response from the Syrian government for this very complex, dangerous operation to go ahead.

“Courageous humanitarian workers will be able to go with hundreds of truckloads of medical equipment, food and all of the other things needed in Eastern Aleppo and we are ready to evacuate hundreds of wounded to medical facilities in both West Aleppo and opposition-held Idlib,” said Egeland.

A boy gestures as he chats with his father in the rebel-held besieged al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 23, 2016.

A boy gestures as he chats with his father in the rebel-held besieged al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 23, 2016.

With the exception of a few short pauses in the fighting, eastern Aleppo has been under relentless aerial attack by the Syrian government and its Russian ally. Egeland says every medical facility in the city has been hit.

He says the U.N. is launching a system to try to stop the attacks from happening over and over again.

People inspect damage in Omar Bin Abdulaziz hospital, in the rebel-held besieged area of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 19, 2016.

People inspect damage in Omar Bin Abdulaziz hospital, in the rebel-held besieged area of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 19, 2016.

“Of course, there then also has to be accountability for attacks. Under humanitarian law, it is war crimes to deliberately attack medical facilities,” he said.

The plan calls for the monitoring of hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities to ensure they are only used to care for the wounded and sick. It also calls for these buildings to be clearly marked and for notifying the locality of these structures to all those using air warfare to avoid attacking them.

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