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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

'Surrender or starve' strategy signals deeper agony ahead for civilians in Aleppo, UN panel warns

16 August 2016 – The situation of civilians in Aleppo is "critical and demands immediate attention and response," a United Nations-mandated human rights panel warned today, expressing grave for the safety of the war-raved city's people, including some 100,000 children, and urging countries with influence to pressure the parties to the conflict in Syria to return to political negotiations.

"The situation in Aleppo city has been catastrophic for many years. As unthinkable as it is, the current attacks suggest the agony of its civilians is about to deepen," the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a statement.

"These attacks appear to form the prelude to a siege, designed to force the capture of the city through an already-documented strategy of 'surrender or starve'," it added.

According to the Commission, civilians are being killed in the city due to daily aerial bombardments by Government and pro-Government forces, while many have also died trapped under rubble of collapsed buildings surrounding impact sites. Subsequent strikes have killed first responders, including members of the Syrian Civil Defence, as they attempted to rescue survivors.

Additionally, the bombardments have also destroyed more than 25 hospitals and clinics since January, killing patients and medical staff. Among the healthcare facilities destroyed are maternity hospitals, paediatric units and emergency wards.

"Those inside the armed group-held neighbourhoods describe lives of horror, under near-constant threat of death from airstrikes. There is limited food, water, and supplies for babies and infants. Access to medical care in these areas is largely non-existent," said the Commission, underlining the dire situation of the civilians in the city.

The situation of civilians in Government-controlled area is equally desperate as scores have been killed by indiscriminate ground shelling of armed groups, as coalitions including Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and the terrorist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously Jabhat al-Nusra) mount their counteroffensive against Government attack, the statement added.

More than two million civilians in the city do not have access to running water, and markets, bakeries and water pumping stations have been destroyed in airstrikes and barrel bombings.

Concerning the establishment of humanitarian corridors, being discussed at various fora, the Commission underlined that humanitarian corridors, if put in place, must be set up and implemented in a manner that complies with key humanitarian principles.

It stressed that civilians who choose to remain must have unhindered access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.

"Regardless of the existence of humanitarian corridors, the warring parties' legal obligation not to direct attacks against civilians and civilian targets remains," the Commission added.

Underscoring that even wars have rules, the Commission expressed that the attacks on Aleppo city, even if in accordance with the laws of war, will only further devastate the civilian population.

Urging UN Member State, particularly those supporting parties to the conflict, to pressure a return to political negotiations, the Commission expressed:

"Until that time, and before our eyes, Syrian men, women and children continue to pay the highest price."

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established on 22 August 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the country.

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