Thousands flee mounting violence in Syria’s Aleppo, UN spotlights growing shelter needs

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On 1 December 2016, two young boys burn anything they can find to keep themselves warm at a large warehouse in Jibreen, Syria, that hosts displaced families from the recent fighting in east Aleppo. Photo: UNICEF

ARA News

Geneva – While reiterating its extreme concern about the civilian population in Syria’s war-battered Aleppo, the United Nations refugee agency today said it is also focusing on the rapidly growing shelter needs for thousands of people fleeing the city’s eastern neighbourhoods.

“Many of those who have fled eastern districts are now in unfinished or partly-destroyed buildings. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding are already challenges in a congested city with few open spaces,” Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“We have emergency supplies of non-food items, among them blankets and tents, for 45,000 people in western Aleppo. These can be replenished at short notice,” Edwards said

According to UNHCR, some 30,000 people are estimated to have fled eastern Aleppo just in the last days.

“In all, there are now some 400,000 displaced people in western Aleppo,” the agency said.

War Crimes

In the meantime, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Russian and Syrian militaries of committing war crimes during their month-long bombardment of rebel-held districts in Aleppo.

During the month-long bombing campaign, Syrian military forces surrounded the war-ravaged eastern part of Aleppo city. While Syrian and Russian officials declared that civilians and fighters could leave through designated corridors, very few did.

Between September and October, the Syrian Violations Documentation Center, recorded 440 civilian fatalities in eastern Aleppo, including nearly 90 children. President al-Assad’s Government and the armed opposition have blamed each other for the civilian casualties.

“Whatever the reason, the Russian-Syrian coalition should have taken precautionary measures to avoid and minimize civilian casualties when attacking armed opposition groups,” Human Rights Watch said.

According to HRW, the airstrikes often appeared to be recklessly indiscriminate, deliberately targeting at least one medical facility. The bombardment also reportedly  included the use of desultory weapons, such as cluster munitions and incendiary weapons.

“Using that amount of firepower in an urban area with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of civilians predictably killed hundreds of civilians,” said Ole Solvang, Deputy Emergencies Director at HRW. “Those who ordered and carried out unlawful attacks should be tried for war crimes.”

Source: ARA News & Agencies

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