The United Nations vowed on Thursday to press ahead in securing medical evacuations of hundreds of sick and wounded from the Syrian city of Aleppo and demanded that the warring sides drop their conditions and secure these operations.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September.
Since 19 September, more than 800 civilians were killed and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
The Assad regime said on October 20 that a unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia had come into force to allow people to leave besieged eastern Aleppo, and it will be renewed and preserved for four days.
However, the truce ended on the third day with intensive airstrikes and extreme clashes between the rebels and pro-regime forces, while Russia refused these “claims” and said that the ceasefire is still holding.
The United Nations aborted plans at the weekend to evacuate patients from rebel-held east Aleppo, which it had hoped to accomplish during a three-day lull in fighting last week, accusing all parties to the conflict of obstructing its efforts.
“We are not giving up,” Jan Egeland, a U.N. humanitarian adviser, told reporters after the weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force, composed of major and regional powers.
“We had unanimous support from Russia, the United States and from all of the other countries in the room to try again. On all fronts,” he said.
Egeland also said the Syrian government had rejected a U.N. request to deliver food and other aid supplies to rebel-held eastern Aleppo and an area in east Ghouta near Damascus as part of its plan for November.
“Which means that we need to overturn that decision,” he added.
“It was very clear today that the Russians want to help us with the November plan implementation, would like to help us get access to east Aleppo,” he said.
In all, the Assad government approved access to 23 of 25 areas sought by the U.N. next month, including 17 besieged areas, he said. But it will allow relief for only 70 percent of the more than 1 million people deemed in need, Egeland said. Surgical items are still not allowed in, “a notable exception”.
“The war is getting worse, it’s getting more ruthless and it’s affecting more and more the children and the civilians,” Egeland said.
The UN has previously suspended land deliveries to Aleppo after a 31-truck convoy was attacked on September 9 at in western Aleppo, destroying most of the convoy and killing at least 20 civilians.
The US declared later that it will resume its operations but only after receiving guarantees from both Assad regime and the rebels.
“We need assurances from all parties to the conflict, not just a unilateral announcement that this will happen. We need everybody to give us those assurances before it is immediately useful for us to do anything meaningful,” U.N. spokesman Jens Laerke said.
Many people say that the U.N. isn’t doing what it must, as a global power, to stop the brutal offensive in Aleppo or at least to halt it and ease the humanitarian suffer in the city. On the contrary, analysts think that the U.N. is giving the Assad regime and its Russian allies more time to retake Aleppo.
The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria offered previously to go to eastern Aleppo and escort up to 1,000 rebel fighters out of the city to try to bring an end to bombardment by Russian and Syrian forces.
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.