Fears for the safety of civilians in eastern and western Aleppo city are mounting amid the looming threat of a resumption and possible escalation of fighting and bombardment by Syrian government forces with Russian support, and non-state armed groups once a humanitarian pause comes to an end later today, said Amnesty International.
Media reports indicate that a fleet of Russian warships have made their way to Latakia on the Syrian coast in recent days indicating that Syrian and Russian forces are preparing a final bloody assault to seize control of the city.
“Even in times of wars, there are fundamental rules that all parties must obey. Civilians must never be deliberately targeted. And armed forces must never indiscriminately bombard populated areas. Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have systematically violated international humanitarian law in eastern Aleppo and throughout Syria, unlawfully killing tens of thousands of civilians. And armed opposition groups have indiscriminately bombarded civilian areas in in western Aleppo and elsewhere. ”
“The scale of the devastation in eastern Aleppo in recent months has been chilling. Given the track record of the forces fighting in Aleppo – particularly government forces – Amnesty International fears there will be very high civilian casualties as Syrian forces, supported by Russia, escalate attacks in order to seize control of the city,” said Samah Hadid , Deputy Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.
“In previous attacks documented by Amnesty International on eastern Aleppo Syrian government forces, supported by Russia have shamelessly flouted international humanitarian law by launching unlawful attacks killing and injuring civilians and failing to take necessary precautions to ensure they are protected by using illegal weapons such as cluster munition. Civilians in western Aleppo city are also at risk from the repeated, unlawful use of imprecise explosive weapons by armed groups such as mortars and Katyusha rockets.”
Residents of eastern Aleppo have also expressed their fears to Amnesty International of the looming assault on the city. Um Mohamad said that she feared the pauses meant a greater attack was around the corner:
“I know that it is a matter of time before hell is unleashed again. When they announce a humanitarian pause, my heart stops beating because I know what comes next: air strike attacks.”
Another resident Nizar, told the organisation: “I am afraid that the offensive might be bloodier than the one before. There is nowhere to run or hide. The bombs Russia and the regime are using on us destroy entire buildings including the basement.”
“The temporary humanitarian pause announced by Russia is no substitute for unfettered and impartial humanitarian access and ensuring protection of civilians in the longer term when the airstrikes resume. Civilians wishing to evacuate must be allowed to do so without any restrictions by all parties to the conflict,” said Samah Hadid.