Syrian Army Presses into Aleppo after Hospital Bombings
By VOA News October 02, 2016
Syrian forces advanced in the northern city of Aleppo Sunday, in an ongoing offensive to wrest one of the country's major cities from opposition fighters.
Syrian state media reports the army promised rebels safe passage if they cleared out of the city's eastern sector, following bombing campaigns that have heavily targeted the area's hospitals.
Relief workers say the largest remaining Syrian hospital in the rebel-held eastern half of Aleppo was bombed Saturday for the second time in recent days, as Syrian government forces and their Russian allies push to recapture the entire city.
"The healthcare system in eastern Aleppo is all but obliterated," U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien implored Sunday.
He called again for at least a temporary stop to the violence to evacuate critical medical cases from the city, where he said the hospital system is on the verge of collapsing.
"As an absolute minimum, I reiterate my call for 48 hours weekly humanitarian pause in the fighting," O'Brien said in a statement posted online. "Stop the carnage now."
The month-long battle for Aleppo has sparked some of the deadliest violence since civil war erupted in Syria more than five years ago.
U.N. officials have estimated as many as 400,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which has also displaced millions of others.
World Health Organization humanitarian spokesman Rick Brennan, speaking Friday, described the situation in Aleppo as "really unfathomable."
Brennan said health officials in the city have recorded 338 bombing deaths "in the last couple of weeks" and said the toll includes 106 children. More than 800 people have been wounded, he said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denounced the hospital bombings as war crimes, while the United States continues to press Russia for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The Obama administration accuses Russia and Syria of targeting hospitals, refugee camps and other critical sites, including water pumping stations and power plants. U.S. officials say the bombings are indiscriminate and that the Russians make no effort to limit their targets to Islamic State fighters.
For its part, Russia insists its forces are targeting what it calls "terrorists."
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