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UN: Humanitarian ceasefire needed in Aleppo

August 9, 2016

The UN has called for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo where it says millions of civilians are trapped without water or electricity. Fighting has rocked the divided city as loyalist forces try to rout rebels.

Syrien Aleppo Kämpfe
Image: Reuters/A. Ismail

More than two million people in Aleppo are in danger of coming under total siege, the United Nations has warned, calling for immediate access to the heavily bombed city.

"The UN is extremely concerned that the consequences will be dire for millions of civilians if the electricity and water networks are not immediately repaired," a joint statement from Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria and Kevin Kennedy, UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said Tuesday.

The fighting in Aleppo is reported to have killed at least 130 civilians since the end of last month, and has damaged hospitals, clinics, and the city's critical infrastructure including water, sanitation and electricity.

"The UN stands ready to assist the civilian population of Aleppo, a city now united in its suffering," the statement read. "At a minimum, the UN requires a full-fledged ceasefire or weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses to reach the millions of people in need throughout Aleppo and replenish the food and medicine stocks, which are running dangerously low."

Aleppo in state of siege

Aleppo has been in a state of siege since government forces closed in on the Castello Road, the last route into rebel-held areas of the city. The road was severed nearly a month ago, sparking food shortages and skyrocketing prices in the eastern districts.

But in a major push last week, a coalition of rebels, Islamists, and jihadists cut off the regime's own main access road on the southern edges of the city.

The different sides have been able to bring food and other supplies into districts of the city they control, but the roads are still not safe for civilians to use.

"When used to intentionally deprive people of food and other items essential to their survival, siege tactics constitute a war crime," the UN statement said.

More than 290,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011. Millions have been displaced leading to a refugee crisis in the region and spilling into Europe.

jar/kl (Reuters, AFP)