In ‘A Complete Meltdown of Humanity’, Hundreds of Civilians Are Being Killed by Syrian Government Forces in Aleppo

A man carries a child as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)
A man carries a child as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

Pro-government forces retaking the eastern neighborhoods of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least 82 civilians on Monday, the United Nations estimated, in what one official called “a complete meltdown of humanity.”

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, warned that the blood bath in Aleppo, a once-thriving northern metropolis that is close to falling under the government’s complete control after more than four years of fighting, could spread to other cities where rebels are active.

“What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idlib,” he said on Tuesday. “We cannot let this continue.”

Also on Tuesday, the French government said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of a chemical attack in the eastern suburbs of the city of Hama a day earlier. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, an international coalition of humanitarian groups, said the attack had killed at least 93 civilians and wounded 300, but those numbers could not be confirmed independently.

The death toll for eastern Aleppo, recorded in four neighborhoods — Bustan al-Qasr, al-Fardous, al-Kallaseh and al-Saleheen — included 11 women and 13 children, some shot in the streets as they tried to flee the fighting, said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. He cited reports the world body had received from reliable contacts inside and outside the city.

Mr. Colville said pro-government forces had also reportedly entered homes and killed those they found inside, including women and children.

They also shot and killed civilians on Monday in al-Ahrar Square in al-Kallaseh, and in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, he said, adding that an Iraqi militia group had been among the forces involved.

By early Monday evening, opposition groups were estimated to control just a third of a square mile of the city, Mr. Colville said, citing “deeply disturbing reports” of streets filled with bodies that could not be retrieved by residents because of the intensity of the fighting and of the fear of being shot on sight.

Pro-government television channels showed footage of Bustan al-Qasr eerily empty; its residents appeared to have fled, some going to government-controlled areas and others to the shrinking zones still held by rebels.

“Civilians have paid a brutal price during this conflict, and we are filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner of opposition-held eastern Aleppo,” Mr. Colville said.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Nick Cumming-Bruce and Anne Barnard