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Nearly 500 killed in Aleppo bombings, food running out: UN chief

world Updated: Oct 21, 2016 08:41 IST
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A man walks past damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged al-Sukkari neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria. (Reuters Photo)

The nearly month-long Russian and Syrian bombing campaign in Aleppo has had horrific results, with nearly 500 dead and food rations expected to run out by the end of the month, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

“The conflict continues to reach new and awful depths,” Ban told a special meeting of the General Assembly called by 72 countries in an initiative led by Canada.

The air strikes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo since the Syrian offensive was launched on September 22 have been the most sustained and intensive bombardment of the five-year war, said Ban.

“The results have been horrific”, said the UN chief, with nearly 500 people killed and about 2,000 injured. More than a quarter of all deaths are children.

No UN aid convoy has entered Aleppo since July 7 and food rations will run out by the end of October, Ban warned, deploring that hunger was being used as a weapon of war.

The meeting at the General Assembly was called after the Security Council failed to take action to end the bombing raids on Aleppo and revive peace efforts.

Two resolutions were defeated during a stormy council session earlier this month, one of which was vetoed by Russia, which is backing the Syrian regime in its war against opposition fighters and jihadists.

Russia this week declared a humanitarian pause in the assault on rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians have been under near-continuous siege since July.

Canada’s foreign minister welcomed Russia’s decision to extend a ceasefire in Aleppo but said it was not enough to improve aid access and raise prospects for peace negotiations in Syria.

A general view taken with a drone shows a mosque where forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are stationed in Aleppo's government-controlled area of al-Masharqa. (Reuters Photo)

“This is a positive sign,” foreign minister Stephane Dion told AFP. “But it is not enough.”

“We all want to see a return to negotiations” to end the war and ensure deliveries of aid to desperate civilians besieged in Aleppo, he said.

“We can’t do this on the basis of such a short pause.”

The foreign minister said the assembly meeting could have “positive consequences” and could put pressure on “those who can take concrete measures”.

“We can expect that everyone will agree on a cessation of hostilities and opening up aid deliveries, but this must be said in the loudest way possible and that’s the goal of today’s meeting,” he said.

Smoke rises from reported opposition fire from buildings in an eastern government-held neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP Photo)