France has accused Syria and its allies of using the political uncertainty in the US to launch 'total war' against rebel-held areas. The countries opposed to President Bashar al-Assad are set to meet soon in Paris.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Wednesday that the international community "must stop averting its gaze" from the "terrible reality" of what was happening in Syria. "It is urgent that we react," he said.
"France is taking an initiative to confront this strategy of total war by the regime and its allies, who are taking advantage of the current uncertainty in the United States," Ayrault continued.
"Today one million people are besieged. Not just in Aleppo, but in Homs, Ghouta and Idlib, and that's the reality of the situation in Syria," Ayrault said.
Countries who back the moderate Syrian opposition are to meet in Paris in early December, Ayrault announced.
Countries expected to attend include the US, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Donald Trump is to be inaugurated as US president on January 20, while the outgoing Obama administration is unlikely to take an active role in Syria before then.
The Syrian regime has pounded the rebel-held east of the city of Aleppo with air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery fire for more than a week. More than 140 people have been killed.
Dozens of civilians tried to flee the rebel-held area but were forced back by gunfire as the Syrian army offensive continued. "On Tuesday night, around 100 families gathered near a passage from the (rebel-held) Bustan al-Basha district to cross to Sheikh Maqsud," the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. "But when the civilians tried to cross to the other side, gunfire broke out."
The government accuses rebels of using residents as "human shields" and preventing them from leaving.
"Permit those citizens who want to do so to leave, stop using them as hostages and human shields, clear the mines from the crossings identified by the state," the army said in a statement.
jbh/jm (AFP, Reuters)