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Syrian Doctors appeal to President Barack Obama to End Bombings, Sieges in Aleppo

While commending Russia's willingness to consider a three-hour pause in military action in Aleppo, the U.S. supports the U.N.'s call for a long-term cease-fire

FILE - A medic inspects the damage inside Anadan Hospital, sponsored by Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, after it was hit by an airstrike in the rebel-held city of Anadan, northern Aleppo province, Syria, July 31, 2016.

August 11, 2016: Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria, where the civil war broke out in the county five years ago and remains caught in the battle for control between rebels and pro-government forces. As the fighting has included numerous attacks on medical facilities, a group of Syrian doctors sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama describing the devastation and pleading for action to stop attacks against civilians. The doctors are quite afraid that the attack on medical facilities will wipe out medical services in Aleppo in a month if they continue at the same rate.

“What pains us most, as doctors, is choosing who will live and who will die. Young children are sometimes brought into our emergency rooms so badly injured that we have to prioritise those with better chances, or simply don’t have the equipment to help them.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said attacks against civilians must stop.

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“The United States has repeatedly condemned the indiscriminate bombing of medical facilities by the Assad regime in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. The attacks, I think, as illustrated in this letter are appalling. They must cease,” Trudeau said Thursday during the daily briefing.

Sieges in Aleppo left many people in need of food and medical aid. The United Nations has tried coordinated deliveries but has been hindered by ongoing violence.

FILE – In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens and firefighters gather where a rocket hit the Dubeet hospital in the central neighbourhood of Muhafaza in Aleppo, Syria, May 3, 2016.

The U.S. is working with the U.N. and others, including Russia, to “find a diplomatic approach to reducing the violence in a sustainable way, and allow unimpeded lifesaving humanitarian access into places like Aleppo,” according to Trudeau.

While commending Russia’s willingness to consider a three-hour pause in military action in Aleppo, the U.S. supports the U.N.’s call for a long-term cease-fire.

“Any pause is good, anything that cuts the violence,” said Trudeau, adding “the U.N. has come out and they’ve said that the three hours are not enough” and Washington supports the U.N. on this.

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Attempts at U.N.-led peace talks, which included efforts by the United States and Russia to coordinate Syria’s warring sides, have also been unsuccessful.

“For five years, we have face death from above on a daily basis. But now we face death from all around,” the doctors wrote. “For five years, the world has stood by and remarked how ‘complicated’ Syria is while doing little to protect us.”

The doctors said they do not need tears, sympathy or prayers, but to be free from bombings and international action to prevent any future sieges. (VOA)


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Civilians Who Fled Afrin Suffer from Dire Humanitarian Conditions

People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin, Syria, March 15, 2018. VOA

Thousands of civilians who fled the city of Afrin are enduring dire conditions after they reached Syrian-controlled areas south of the Afrin district.

“More than 2,000 people reached the towns of Nubl and Zahraa from Afrin in the past 24 hours, raising the number of total civilians in the two towns to 16,000. Many are suffering from tragic conditions,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website.

Turkish media announced the control of Afrin on Sunday, after the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrew from the city and thousands of civilians were evacuated — 59 days after the launch of Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish military operation in Afrin.

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The Observatory said Nubl and Zahraa were struggling to provide shelter and food for the large numbers of displaced people pouring into the towns.

Sumama Al-Ashkar, a journalist in Nubl and Zahraa, told VOA that people were residing in houses, mosques, schools, public halls and warehouses.

“The civilians in Nubl and Zahraa are able to get some aid and services, but those who went to Tal Rifat in northern Aleppo are struggling to survive,” he said.

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The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Monday expressing deep concern about reports coming from the predominantly Kurdish city in the past 48 hours.

“It appears the majority of the population of the city … evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” the statement said.

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers walk in city center of Afrin, northwestern Syria, March 18, 2018. VOA

Destruction and looting

A number of reports circulated in the media said Turkish-backed forces were destroying and looting public and private properties after they entered the city.

The Afrin media center said once the Turkish-backed fighters reached the town center, they destroyed a statue placed in the center of the city that represents Kurdish cultural figure Kawa the Ironsmith.

“Kawa the Ironsmith is a major historical symbol for the Kurdish people, as it is linked to the most important Middle Eastern holiday, the Nawruz,” Afrin Media Center said.

Footage coming from Afrin also showed Turkish-backed fighters pillaging homes, shops and military sites amidst chaos. They were seen carrying food, electronic devices, civilian cars, farmers’ tractors and livestock.

Members of the Syrian opposition condemned the looting and destruction of the city and called for holding the looters responsible for their acts.

The General Military Staff of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government of the Syrian opposition, issued a statement Monday calling for the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to protect civilians and their properties, and to respect religious and ethnic installations in Afrin.

Turkish soldiers, positioned in the city center of Afrin, northwestern Syria, March 19, 2018, a day after they took the control of the area. VOA

In a comment to CNN, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, did not deny the reports of looting but said the actions were committed by some groups who disobeyed their commanders. He said reports were being investigated.

Guerilla war

On Sunday, Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told ANF, the Kurdish News Agency, that the fight in Afrin entered a new phase, where the YPG and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) will continue to resist in the district.

Muslim added that the civilians had to leave the city for their own protection and vowed to step up the fight.

“The existence of civilians in the city will impose a challenge for our fighters. Our enemy kills civilians and strikes hospitals, and since the Turkish offensive started, civilians were targeted. Now, the war will continue in a different way after civilians left the city,” Muslim said.

A number of humanitarian organizations and civil society groups working north and east of Syria, including the Kurdish Red Crescent, issued a joint statement calling on the international community to act.

“We plea to the international community to intervene immediately to stop these attacks and let the refugees return to their homes, protect their possessions and civil rights, and deliver aid to thousands of people [who] fled this war,” the statement said Monday. VOA