UN: ‘No red lines left to cross in Syria’

The UN humanitarian chief pleaded the Security Council that eastern Aleppo could turn into a ‘giant graveyard’

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There are no “red lines left to cross in Syria,” the UN humanitarian chief said Wednesday, accusing parties to the Syrian conflict who have systematically disregarded the laws of war.

Speaking via video-link from London, Stephen O’Brien told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that was nowhere more apparent than in the besieged city of eastern Aleppo with nearly a quarter of million people trapped inside.

“There are no limits or red lines left to cross. The rules of war - sacrosanct notions borne out of generations of costly and painful lessons and set more than 150 year ago in the First Geneva Convention - have been systematically disregarded in Syria,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said some 25,000 people, most of them women and children, have been displaced from their homes since Saturday and that it is likely thousands more will flee in the coming days as Syrian forces step up their attack.

He said there was no longer any properly functioning hospitals in eastern Aleppo, which has been under siege for nearly 150 days and that most of the people trapped inside don't have the means to survive much longer.

He called on the Syrian government to allow the UN and its humanitarian partners unrestricted access to deliver food and medical aid.

He also urged the Security Council for action.

“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,” he said.

Staffan de Mistura told the council that over the last two weeks, government forces have recaptured almost 40 percent of the area in Aleppo previously held by opposition groups forcing thousands to flee.

He said his office had received credible reports of opposition groups preventing civilians from fleeing areas under their control. Also, he expressed concern that many fleeing the city, who are perceived to have links to the opposition, were being detained by government forces.

Six million children in need of aid

There are about six million Syrian children “in need of humanitarian assistance,” UNICEF Regional Director Greet Cappelaere told the Security Council emergency meeting.

“Over 2 million of these children are in hard-to-reach areas, which humanitarian agencies cannot access on a regular basis,” Cappelaere said. “Nearly half a million [children] live under siege, cut off from humanitarian aid and basic services.”

She said that some of these children have been living under siege for two years. Cappelaere warned that “schools have come under relentless attack all over the country.” She described 2016 as “particularly devastating for education.”

“Since the beginning of 2016, the UN has documented 84 attacks on schools across Syria, with at least 69 children losing their lives and many more injured,” she added.

“Across the country, more than 7,000 schools can no longer be used because they are destroyed, damaged, sheltering displaced families or being used for military purposes.”

Currently, there are 1.7 million children and adolescents in Syria, who are out of school.

(With Associated Press)

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