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More Than 200,000 Flee Fighting In Syria's Aleppo City: UN
324 days ago
(RTTNews) - UN humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos said Monday that at least 200,000 people have fled the ongoing fighting between Syrian security forces and rebels in the city of Aleppo, and appealed to both sides to stop the fighting immediately and allow humanitarian access to the remaining civilians in the city.
Incidentally, Aleppo has been the center of intense combat between government and opposition forces over recent days. Syrian forces have launched a major offensive against rebel forces who seized control of the city last week. Reports indicate that the regime is using fighter jets as well as helicopter gunships and heavy artillery in the offensive.
"It is not known how many people remain trapped in places where fighting continues today. Many people have sought temporary shelter in schools and other public buildings in safer areas. They urgently need food, mattresses and blankets, hygiene supplies and drinking water," Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement on Monday.
Noting that the current security situation in Syria has made it very difficult for humanitarian agencies to reach displaced families in most of the affected areas, Amos said: "Despite the very dangerous situation, the Red Crescent, UN agencies and partners have continued to deliver food, blankets and hygiene kits whenever and wherever they can, and are dispatching thousands more items."
Regarding the ongoing violence in Syria, Amos said she was extremely concerned by the impact of shelling and use of tanks and other heavy weapons on people in Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, as well as in capital Damascus and surrounding towns.
"I call on all parties to the fighting to ensure that they do not target civilians and that they allow humanitarian organizations safe access to bring urgent and life-saving help to people caught up in the fighting,' she added.
Separately, the British Foreign Office (FO) said Monday that the Syria's chief diplomat in London has defected and is no longer representing the regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad. An FO statement quoted Syria's Charge d'Affaires in London, Khaled al-Ayoubi, as saying that his decision was prompted by the "violent and oppressive acts" committed by the regime against "its own people."
Several senior Syrian officials, including Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares as well as Brigadier-General Manaf Tlas - a senior commander in Syria's Republican Guard and a close friend of Assad, have defected to the opposition in recent weeks. Most rebel fighters involved in the conflict are army deserters.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, killed and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. The opposition, however, claims the actual death toll closer to 18,000.
The ongoing conflict in Syria is now viewed as a civil war by most of the international community. In addition to those trapped inside Syria, the ongoing conflict has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
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