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Army targets water supplies in Aleppo

September 24, 2016

Rebels have retaliated by closing water pumps for government-held areas of Aleppo, affecting 1.5 million people. The UN has called on all parties to "stop attacks on water infrastructure," considered a war crime.

The remnants of an ambulance in Aleppo
Image: picture-alliance/AA/I. Ebu Leys

The Russia-backed Syrian army on Saturday continued its aerial campaign on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, targeting the water supplies, according to the UN.

"Intense attacks last night have damaged the Bab al-Nayrad water pumping station, which supplies water to some 250,000 people in the eastern parts of Aleppo. Violence is preventing repair teams from reaching the station," said UNICEF's Syria representative Hanaa Singer.

The UNICEF official noted that rebels retaliated by switching off the main pumping station to western areas of the city, effectively cutting off water to 1.5 million people.

"In the eastern part, the population will have to resort to highly contaminated well water. In the western part, existing deep ground water wells will provide a safe alternative," Singer added.

UNICEF called on the conflict's parties to "stop attacks on water infrastructure," which is considered a war crime, according to additional protocol of the Geneva Conventions.

Syria has witnessed an escalation of violence across the country, with intense fighting between regime forces and rebel factions concentrated in Aleppo.

Flight and Arrival

Imminent ground invasion

Government forces on Thursday announced "the start of its operations in the eastern district of Aleppo," calling on civilians to stay clear of areas near "the headquarters and positions of armed terrorist gangs."

Damascus uses the term "terrorists" to describe anti-government forces, including US-backed rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian military officials declared the army's intent to launch a "ground invasion" of the country's second city in the wake of a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow that collapsed earlier this week.

"All Aleppo teams and volunteers active across the city - hundreds trapped under rubble from indiscriminate airstrikes. Hospitals (are) overwhelmed," said Aleppo's civil defense rescue services The White Helmets in a tweet on Saturday. Airstrikes - apparently by Russian aircraft - destroyed three of the civil defense's four centers in Aleppo on Friday.

White Helmets chief Ammar al-Selmo said more than 100 people had been killed since the Syrian army's latest campaign in Aleppo.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and half the population displaced since the conflict erupted in 2011, when government forces launched a crackdown on protesters calling for Assad to step down.

ls/rg (Reuters, AFP)