Atrocity Alert No. 16: Aleppo, Syria

3 August 2016

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

The risk of further mass atrocity crimes is extremely high in eastern parts of rebel-held Aleppo, which has been surrounded and besieged by forces loyal to the Syrian government. The United Nations estimates that as many as 300,000 people now face a “life or death” situation in eastern Aleppo. Fighting has intensified as rebel forces are trying to break the siege from the south, resulting in civilian casualties and the displacement of approximately 25,000 people from western Aleppo. An immediate and coordinated international response is needed to end the siege and provide urgent humanitarian assistance.

The besiegement of eastern Aleppo follows pro-government forces capturing the strategic Castello Road, which served as a vital artery for civilians, in early July. The city has been divided since 2012 and has been a key battleground between loyalist and opposition forces during the Syrian civil war.

Food stocks and medical supplies are running out in eastern Aleppo. Amid the worsening humanitarian crisis, Syrian government airstrikes destroyed four health facilities and the only remaining blood bank in rebel-held Aleppo between 23 and 24 July. These attacks, as well as the 29 July airstrike targeting a maternity ward in Idlib, are part of a calculated strategy of targeting health care in rebel-held parts of Syria and amount to war crimes.

Russia and Syria proposed several humanitarian “exit corridors” from eastern Aleppo on 27 July. This included sending text messages and dropping leaflets warning civilians to leave, as well as calling on armed groups to surrender. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has joined 39 organizations in issuing a strong warning against the proposal, stating, “there is nothing humanitarian about forcing the people of Aleppo to choose between fleeing into the arms of their attackers or remaining in a besieged area under continued bombardment.” The UN Special Envoy for Syria and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator have also warned against the Russian and Syrian proposal.

We therefore call on the International Syria Support Group and the international community to ensure:

  1. The immediate end to all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Aleppo, including hospitals and schools;
  2. An immediate end to the siege of eastern Aleppo by the Syrian government and its allies;
  3. An agreement by all parties for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in Aleppo to ensure safe, unimpeded and immediate humanitarian access to all parts of Aleppo, as well as to ensure that civilians can leave voluntarily;
  4. A return to the internationally-brokered cessation of hostilities, which came into effect on 27 February 2016, but has since effectively collapsed.
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


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