Air strikes and intense artillery fire have pounded the rebel-held east of the Syrian city of Aleppo for the fourth day, and Assad regime escalated its ground operations to retrieve the city, as reports said that 275.000 civilians trapped there will be dead in 20 days if no aids were delivered.
There are about 275,000 people trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo, where civilians are suffering through daily bombing, including by bunker-buster and incendiary weapons, and through starvation, as limited supplies run out and aid convoys are blocked from the city.
On Friday 29 October the rebel forces started a new military operation to break the siege, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city’s western edge by rebels based in the countryside outside Aleppo.
However, the rebels’ attack was repelled in many fronts by Assad regime’s forces and the battles have slowed down after the fourth day, as Assad regime deployed hundreds of fighters to the area and intensified its airstrikes.
Government forces said that they were preparing a major offensive to push opposition fighters out of the besieged eastern half of the city, and started it again on Tuesday.
Children hospital targeted
In the four days since bombardment resumed on eastern Aleppo, the Observatory says it has documented 65 deaths and hundreds of injuries in east Aleppo, and four deaths and dozens of injuries in government-held west Aleppo as a result of rebel rocket fire.
The only children’s hospital in besieged Aleppo is out of action after being bombed as it treated victims of a chlorine gas attack, forcing staff to evacuate babies in incubators and other patients injured over days of fierce bombardment.
There were so many air strikes across Aleppo that the White Helmets teams which rescue survivors from rubble and put out fires said they were struggling to reach all the bomb sites. “[The city] is a mess,” said rescuer Ibrahim al-Haj.
The children’s hospital, which was also hit on Thursday, was forced to evacuate as its doctors treated victims of the chlorine attack who were struggling to breathe.
“We are moving the children’s hospital because it has been hit twice this week and is considered a full-on target,” the Independent Doctors Association said. “We took the decision to evacuate it today, to relocate the staff and patients elsewhere.”
It is believed the bomb was a vacuum missile, fired by Syrian government forces, the IDA said. Footage shot by an al-Jazeera reporter who was covering the aftermath of the chlorine gas attack showed the hospital plunged into darkness.
Bombing raids on the city have frequently targeted medical facilities, which have moved underground and sometimes shifted location in response.
Only 30 doctors are left now in eastern Aleppo and 4 hospitals to treat 250.000 besieged civilians.
Assad regime pushing on the ground
Assad regime has unleashed enormous firepower and deployed hundreds of fighters to the area to break the rebels’ resistance.
The regime’s forces’ persistent and the intensive airstrikes forced the rebels to leave the areas they took during their last offensive.
Assad regime said on Saturday that its forces captured the Dahiyet al-Assad district of western Aleppo , reversing all the gains made by rebels two weeks into their counter-attack against government-held areas.
Fighting was reported on the southern and eastern periphery of the rebel-held area on Friday. The Observatory said Friday’s clashes were the fiercest in Aleppo this week.
Sources on both sides said pro-government militias were mobilised in large numbers.
An official in the Levant Front rebel group, which fights under the Free Syrian Army banner, told Reuters that the pro-government forces appeared to be seeking to advance along a highway that bisects the rebel-held part of Aleppo.
His group lost a commander along with a number of his men in the fighting, he said. “The militias are coming in strongly in the areas they are trying to storm. There are few frontlines in Syria in general at the moment, most of the focus of the regime and militias is in Aleppo,” he said.
A source on the government side confirmed large mobilisation by pro-Assad forces. The source said the shelling of recent days was in preparation for ground operations. A media unit run by Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite group fighting in support of Assad, said the army had made progress in northeastern Aleppo.
Not just death, Mass hunger awaits civilians in Aleppo
The last time eastern Aleppo was reached with significant humanitarian supplies was the beginning of July, as a major aid convoy sent to 75.000 civilians in Aleppo was destroyed in September, and then the UN was blocked from delivering more aids.
The White Helmets and Syrian American Medical Society made a statement about the situation in Aleppo, saying that the whole besieged part is threatened with starving to death if the siege lasted.
Of the quarter of a million people stuck in Aleppo, 100,000 are children. These children cannot eat or sleep without incapacitating fear. Every day, they experience unparalleled levels of trauma and anxiety, making them an especially vulnerable group with only 29 doctors remaining to care for them and their families. Our doctors are faced with the unimaginable task of having to decide which child to save and which to let die due to the severe shortage of medical supplies and staff. Furthermore, we do not have the infrastructure in place to provide those who survive with mental-health services to alleviate their severe trauma symptoms. Instead, we let them leave our hospitals in anguish and despair, knowing we helped rescue them from underneath the rubble and provided medical care for them in our hospitals but also knowing we cannot alleviate their fear. We are all afraid. We work knowing that the next child we help may be our own.
Our children in Syria deserve a better future. They deserve dignified medical and mental-health care. They deserve to go to school and play with their friends without fear.
We have to work together immediately to help the people of Aleppo. This is not a divisive political appeal to a single party; the White Helmets affirms its stance to help everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation inside Syria. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) affirms the same stance to help internally displaced Syrians as well as refugees in neighboring countries and beyond receive the medical care they deserve. This appeal we are making is a human one. We are calling on the international community to stand with us now and in solidarity with the people of Aleppo.
We must all come together and place pressure on our governments to lift the siege on besieged areas especially in rural Damascus, Homs and, in line with the U.N. Security Council resolution, all other regions across Syria and allow for food and medical supplies to enter immediately. We are asking you to mobilize, place pressure on your governments and demand that the people of Syria be granted the supplies they urgently need.
Call your political representatives immediately. Organize on the streets. Demand that action be taken. We have less than 20 days, and the time to act is now. Help us help them.
— Ahmad Alkhatib (@AhmadAlkhtiib) November 17, 2016