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UN Aid Chief Demands Safe Humanitarian Corridors for Aleppo

  • Ken Schwartz

FILE - A man looks on as Syrian civil defense workers look for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed building following reported airstrikes in the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Karm Homad in Aleppo, July 17, 2016.

FILE - A man looks on as Syrian civil defense workers look for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed building following reported airstrikes in the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Karm Homad in Aleppo, July 17, 2016.

Humanitarian aid corridors in and out of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo must be made safe, and no one should be forced to leave the city, the U.N. aid chief said Thursday.

Stephen O'Brien was reacting to a Russian proposal for four corridors to evacuate civilians and fighters who want to give up their weapons from rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

Nearly the entire city is surrounded by Syrian forces, making emergency deliveries of food and other supplies impossible. Food is quickly running out for the 300,000 people trapped in Aleppo.

O'Brien is calling for a series of 48-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting to let relief workers get into the city, see what is needed and bring in help.

"All parties are required and obliged under long-established and accepted international humanitarian law to allow safe, unimpeded, impartial and immediate humanitarian access for civilians to leave and come in," O'Brien said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans Thursday for a "large-scale humanitarian operation" outside Aleppo to "help civilians who were taken hostage by terrorists, as well as fighters who wish to lay down their arms."

Russia and the Syrian government use the word "terrorists" when talking about the rebels.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered amnesty to rebels who give up their weapons and surrender to authorities within the next three months.

Syrian opposition groups say the Russian proposal for humanitarian corridors is actually a plan to force Aleppo's population to flee, likening it to a "war crime."

The human rights group Amnesty International also says it is skeptical, saying the Russian proposal is no substitute for the safe distribution of humanitarian aid.

VOA's Ed Yeranian and Lisa Schlein contributed to this report.

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