UN hears details of civilian suffering in Aleppo, Syria

UNITED NATIONS  — Valerie Parker

Twisted debris littered the streets of the rebel held town of Atarerb in Aleppo province Syria where experts painted a graphic picture of attacks on medical facilities, chemical weapon use and ongoing suffering – shaming the international community for its inaction in an Arria-formula meeting of Security Council on Monday organized by the United States.

Dr. Zaher Shaloul, a Syrian-American doctor from Chicago, said medical facilities in eastern Aleppo are targeted regularly, creating an urgent situation where people are dying from treatable conditions for lack of basic medical care and supplies.

“We don’t need condemnations, prayers or pointing fingers, we had enough of that. I ask you to meet the people of Aleppo and see them as humans. I have one request, besides saving Shahd, visit Aleppo yourself and meet with its doctors, nurses and patients. If three doctors from Chicago were able to do that, you can do it,” Shaloul told diplomats.

Shahloul then showed slides showing women and child victims, one of them a child he said was injured in a chlorine gas attack.

He said only 35 physicians remain in Aleppo where 15 health care facilities had been attacked in July alone.

“If the fighting continues it is conceivable that civilians on both sides of Aleppo could be cut off from the basic assistance they need. We cannot allow this to happen,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said.

Citing U.N. figures, Power said Syrian government forces were to blame for nearly 80 percent of the besieged areas throughout Syria. Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city prior the outbreak of the conflict five years ago, has been divided between government forces and rebels since the summer of 2012.

“We once again urge Russia to stop facilitating these sieges and to use its influence to press the regime to end its sieges across Syria once and for all,” she said.

The United Nations aid chief has called for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in fighting to deliver aid to Aleppo.

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov stated that the United States and its western colleagues are politicizing a humanitarian issue, urging them to “admit that the main cause of all of the humanitarian problems in Syria is not the counter-terrorist actions by the legitimate government of Syria. The propaganda and the emotional rhetoric, the unfounded accusations, the information campaign, means that we cannot move toward a political settlement in Syria,” Safronkov said.

He said the first step toward ending the five-year conflict should be a pooling of efforts to combat terrorism and then a renewal of Syrian peace talks.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters five years ago sparked a civil war, and Islamic State militants have leveraged this chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

The United States and allies began bombing Islamic State militants in Syria nearly two years ago, while Russia began air strikes in support of Assad a year ago.

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