Syria: Aleppo civilians under attack

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is appalled by a sharp escalation of violence in the northern city of Aleppo where parties have in recent days carried out indiscriminate attacks against civilians and deliberately prevented them from obtaining basic necessities.

"The hundreds of civilian casualties caused by the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas across Aleppo over the last two weeks are unacceptable," said Boris Michel, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "We urgently call on all parties to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare not only civilians but also essential infrastructure such as water supply lines, power plants and medical facilities."

Intense fighting has cut off many Aleppo residents from the outside world. "The closure of the only crossing between government-and opposition-controlled areas over the last two months and of the main roads connecting the city with Damascus has affected the population's ability to move about and to obtain health care, food and other basic necessities," said Hind Akooly, a delegate based in Aleppo. "We hear of some patients now forced to make a 14-hour trip to reach a hospital. In addition, lack of electricity across the governorate means that people have only limited access to clean water."

The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent stand ready to deliver relief aid to Aleppo residents, and to local medical facilities, but are unable to do so owing to the lack of necessary support by the parties, which is needed to access all people in need. "Despite our uninterrupted efforts over the last two months to gain access to areas directly affected by the fighting in Aleppo and Rural Aleppo, we are still waiting for a green light from the government to deliver urgently needed relief," said Mr Michel. Despite these limitations, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working together to upgrade centres accommodating people displaced by the fighting and to ensure access to clean water for all.

The ICRC urges all parties in Aleppo to protect and spare civilians and to take all feasible precautions to avoid injuries, loss of life and damage to infrastructure indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks, and the ICRC calls on all parties to refrain from using imprecise weapons in densely populated areas. Furthermore, while it is primarily the responsibility of the parties to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian population are met, the parties must nevertheless immediately allow humanitarian relief, including health assistance, into Aleppo, especially in areas considered to be under siege.

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