DAMASCUS – The US called Russia’s action in Syria “barbarism” not counter-terrorism, while Moscow’s UN envoy said ending the war “is almost an impossible task now” as Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow, bombed the city of Aleppo.
The United Nations Security Council met on Sunday at the request of the United States, Britain and France to discuss the escalation of fighting in Aleppo following the announcement on Thursday of an offensive by the Syrian army to retake the city.
“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it is barbarism,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the 15-member council.
“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” Power said.
Aleppo Under Fire
This comes just one day after more than 70 civilians were reportedly killed and dozens more wounded in Russian and Syrian air raids, that struck populated opposition-held neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo.
“The Assad regime and Russia carried out joint airstrikes on the opposition-held eastern part of Aleppo City on Saturday evening. At least seven strikes hit the area, causing the death and injury of dozens,” local media activist Wael Ahmed told ARA News.
The raids also caused massive destruction to residential buildings in the targeted neighbourhoods.
“So far, 72 dead bodies were found, and more than 35 others were seriously wounded,” Saad Issa, a member of the Civil Defence Force in Aleppo said.
“Our rescue teams are still searching for victims under the ruins of the destroyed buildings,” Issa told ARA News.
According to activists and medical teams in Aleppo, the Russian and Syrian airforces used cluster bombs in Saturday’s strikes.
“Most of the victims were children and women. Assad and his Russian allies committed a new massacre against the people of Aleppo today,” rights activist Sulaiman Halwani said. “They only targeted populated areas and residential buildings, with a clear goal to force the people to evacuate their homes,” Halwani told ARA News. “Apparently the international community has given up on saving the remaining people in Aleppo.”
The US Ambassador to the United Nations said: “It is time to say who is carrying out those air strikes and who is killing civilians. Russia holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, this is a privilege and it is a responsibility. Yet in Syria and in Aleppo, Russia is abusing this historic privilege.”
Peace Talks At Stake
A Sept. 9 ceasefire deal between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov aimed at putting Syria’s peace process back on track effectively collapsed on Monday when an aid convoy was bombed.
“In Syria hundreds of armed groups are being armed, the territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately and bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now because of this,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Sunday that the US and Russian bid to bring peace to Syria “is very, very near the end of its life and yes the Security Council needs to be ready to fulfill our responsibilities.”
“The regime and Russia have instead plunged to new depths and unleashed a new hell on Aleppo,” Rycroft told the council. “Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes.”
Also on Sunday, UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the council meeting, and appealed to the council to come up with a way to enforce a cessation of hostilities in Syria.
“I am still convinced that we can turn the course of events. We have proven this more than once before,” Mistura said. “Any sign of me resigning would be a signal that the international community is abandoning the Syrians, and we will not abandon the Syrians, and neither will you.”
By: Laila Majdalawi