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Details of Aleppo’s crisis in Syria told to diplomats at UN

Syrian civil defense workers, right, help an injured

Syrian civil defense workers, right, help an injured woman after warplanes attacked a street in Aleppo, Syria. Photo Credit: AP / Uncredited

UNITED NATIONS — UN diplomats watched images of bloodied victims — including toddlers hit by shrapnel and medical facilities struck by barrel bombs — at an emergency meeting yesterday of the Security Council focused on Aleppo, a city under siege in warring Syria.

Testimony by two physicians and a first responder on the ground in eastern Aleppo, a rebel stronghold and flashpoint in the war that has lasted nearly 5 ½ years, also drove home that people are dying in Syria’s hollowed-out second city as government forces try to rout opposition forces.

“You live your life here one massacre, one slaughter at a time,” said Samer Attar, a physician with the Syrian American Medical Society, testifying at the meeting in Manhattan after showing images of children he treated, some of whom lived and others who did not. “Life is all a blur.”

The meeting, called for by the United States, France, New Zealand, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, came a day before a closed-door session on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria.

Those discussions today will include briefings by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and UN Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs chief Stephen O’Brien. De Mistura has been trying to reach a political settlement to the complex civil war that has drawn in thousands of foreign fighters bent on overthrowing President Bashar Assad.

The UN-brokered intra-Syrian talks, based in Geneva, have been stopped because the humanitarian situation has worsened. And a “cessation of hostilities,” entered into in February, is all but dissolved as fighting intensifies.

One of the most alarming charges against Assad’s government is that it has targeted hospitals in its purported attempt to defeat enemies. In a news release Friday, the Syrian Mission to the United Nations noted that Aleppo came under the control of terrorist organizations in August 2012, 27 groups including affiliates of al-Qaida and Islamic State.

So “the Syrian government . . . launched its recent battle in Aleppo to free and protect the civilians trapped by terror for the past four years,” the government said. But critics such as U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power charge the Syrian government blocked off the main humanitarian supply route, Castello Road, in late June, exacerbating a deplorable situation.

“Two weeks ago, the regime — with the support of its allies — cut off the last remaining access route for humanitarian aid and commercial traffic — Castello Road,” Power said. “It is hard to conceive of a strategy more likely to sabotage the cessation of hostilities, or more likely to play into the hands of violent extremist groups, than attacking other parties to the agreement, and cutting off food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.”

Doctors Without Borders has said Syrian forces have attacked at least four of the hospitals with which it is affiliated. Pablo Marco, the group’s Mideast operations manager, said in a July 28 statement: “One of these hospitals was receiving up to 50 wounded per day, and last week it was hit and forced to close. Now where will these people go? How will the materials and equipment to rebuild the facility get through?”

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