UN Syria envoy warns time 'running out' for east Aleppo



DAMASCUS, SYRIA- The UN's Syria envoy warned Sunday that time was "running out" for eastern Aleppo as he expressed international outrage over a regime bombing campaign of rebel-held parts of the city.
"We are running out of time, we are running against time," Staffan de Mistura said after talks in Damascus with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.



The UN envoy said concern was running high among aid agencies that "instead of a humanitarian or a political initiative" there would be "an acceleration of military activities" in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.
Around 250,000 people have been under siege in the eastern part of Aleppo, Syria's second city and its economic hub before the war erupted in March 2011.
De Mistura said he discussed the escalating violence in Aleppo where government forces last Tuesday began a bid to retake the eastern rebel-held side of the city using air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery.
Dozens of people have been killed in the onslaught, most of them civilians, a monitor has said, and many have been wounded, overwhelming rescue workers in a city where hospitals are also hit.
On Sunday, rebels retaliated with a barrage of rockets into government-held western Aleppo, killing at least eight schoolchildren, state media said.
De Mistura said he began his meeting with Muallem by "expressing serious concern and indeed shared the general international outrage for the news coming from eastern Aleppo".
"By Christmas... due to military intensification, you will have the virtual collapse of what is left in eastern Aleppo; you may have 200,000 people moving towards Turkey -- that would be a humanitarian catastrophe," he warned.
De Mistura said he discussed a "general humanitarian plan for eastern Aleppo" that would include evacuating the sick and wounded and bringing in medical and food supplies.
He also said that the UN and its partners should be able to send "verification teams" to check the damage caused to hospitals that have been bombed in Aleppo, but did not say if he made such a request to the Syrian authorities.
The envoy also confirmed that Syria's regime had rejected a truce proposal that would have allowed the opposition to administer the eastern part of the city.
"We need to have a special case" for Aleppo, he said, stressing, however, that a local administration would only be "a temporary arrangement" that would not undermine "the sacred principle of national sovereignty".
However, Muallem shot down the proposal, saying: "We told him that we reject that completely. How is it possible that the UN wants to reward terrorists?"
More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011, and successive international attempts to find a peaceful resolution have failed.
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Monday, November 21st 2016
AFP
           


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