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Aid Workers Call for End of Violence in Aleppo

Local and international NGOs are calling for an immediate end to the escalation in fighting in Syria’s divided northern city, where violence has risen to levels not seen in months and civilian centers like hospitals, mosques and bakeries have been targeted.

Written by Dylan Collins Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, April 30, 2016, against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's military escalation against rebel-held areas of Aleppo. The Arabic placard reads: "Enough, Aleppo is burning." AP/Bilal Hussein

Amid the serious increase in violence in Aleppo, more than 80 Syria-focused international and local NGOs have called on U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the collapsing cessation of hostilities (CoH) agreement.

“Violence across Syria has escalated alarmingly, reportedly claiming a life on average every 25 minutes in the past 48 hours,” said Friday’s joint statement, which included signatories like the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and Oxfam.

At least 253 civilians, including 49 children, have died in shelling, rocket fire and airstrikes in Aleppo since the surge in fighting began, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Just weeks ago, the U.S. and Russia helped secure the CoH, providing a glimpse of what a respite from violence means for people in Syria,” the statement said. “Fewer people died in the first month of Syria’s cease-fire than at almost any other time since the war began. For many, it was the first time in years that they could walk the streets without fear. This was a first glimpse of hope. That hope now hangs in the balance. Syria is yet again on the brink of humanitarian disaster and the need for action is urgent.”

With the help of Crisis Action, Syria Deeply has gathered statements on the crisis in Aleppo by some of the document’s most prominent signatories.

Dee Goluba, Syria director, Mercy Corps

“For the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Friday prayers were suspended in Aleppo City [last Friday]. Everything is a target. Five years into the conflict, humanitarians are still playing a cat and mouse game in order to provide assistance to people in desperate need. The violence is as bad as it has ever been.”

Elise Baker, Syria researcher, Physicians for Human Rights

“The cost of political impasse is death and destruction in Syria. If Syria’s leaders and the international community cannot reach a peace accord, there’s no doubt attacks on health care will continue and the consequences will be deadly for everyday Syrians. How many more doctors and patients have to die before the international community musters the will to end this bloodshed?”

Rob Williams, CEO, War Child

“We see time and time again that it’s children and their families who are the worst affected when these crises escalate. It’s terrible that five years into this brutal war and so soon after an agreed cease-fire, innocent civilians, including children, continue to be targeted. These families are amongst the most vulnerable in the world and we have a moral and human responsibility to do everything we can to protect them. We need a political commitment from Russia and the USA at the highest level to bring an end to this violence immediately.”

Sanj Srikanthan, director of humanitarian policy and practice, International Rescue Committee

“Attacks on medical facilities are simply abhorrent. After five years of war it is harder than ever for aid agencies to reach the most vulnerable and in need. For ordinary civilians this is no life. If Syria is to be saved, a political solution must be found to bring the conflict to an end. What’s needed is political will, diplomatic effort and ultimately, compromise.”

Nancy E. Wilson, president and CEO, Relief International

“We’re deeply concerned that these incidents are the new normal. Civilians – and not just civilians, but the sick and the people who help them – are becoming pawns in military strategies. It’s time for the world to step up and renew its commitment to eliminating these atrocities.”

Tufail Hussain, deputy director, Islamic Relief

“Islamic Relief has long provided medical supplies to Aleppo’s hospitals, and we have seen the devastating impact of the conflict close up. Urgent action must be taken by world leaders to stop increasing breaches of the cease-fire deteriorating into full-blown conflict again.”

David Ray, vice president for policy & advocacy, CARE USA

“America and Russia cannot wait to take action on these repeated attacks on humanitarians. They know whose planes are bombing hospitals and must clearly condemn such attacks each and every time they happen.”

Dr. Osama Abo Al Ezz, Aleppo coordinator, SAMS, and general surgeon practicing in Aleppo

“When people walk the streets of Aleppo, they sense flames coming from the walls and from the stones. They see blood, destruction and killing. People are scared and terrified. It is very hard to describe. Hospitals are crowded with injured civilians. The medical personnel are exhausted, bewildered and helpless.”

Yasmine Nahlawi, advocacy and policy coordinator, Rethink Rebuild Society

“Enough is enough. Shame on the international community for turning a blind eye towards Syria, for making empty promises and for watching the Assad regime violate one international agreement after the other. The issue is a humanitarian one. We need the world to stand on the right side of humanity and to demand an end to the Assad regime’s continuous violations in Syria.”

Dr. Abdelsalam Daif, Turkey country director, Syria Relief and Development

“A swift return to enduring cease-fire is the only way out of this. Countless lives will depend on all sides to the conflict halting attacks and finding compassion for human lives. The cease-fire decreased violence in Syria by 85 percent. We urge all parties to return to the cease-fire in order to prevent losses of precious human lives and to avoid the tragedy Aleppo witnessed yesterday.”

Curt Goering, executive director, Center for Victims of Torture

“Bombing, rockets and shelling have chronic and severe physical effects, as well as debilitating psychological impacts. With the borders between Syria and its neighbors effectively closed, thousands of people, including children, who have already suffered from the trauma of war, are effectively trapped inside Syria with little to no access to medical and psychosocial services. To have any chance at rebuilding Syria, as the intermittent peace negotiations intend to do, individuals must first be able to rebuild their lives without the threat of bombs overhead.”

Karim Lahidji, president, International Federation for Human Rights

“The parties involved in the Syrian conflict have the obligation to effectively respect the agreed cease-fire. Bombarding hospitals and targeting the civilian population constitute war crimes and must end immediately. It is essential that national and international forces who violate international humanitarian law are held accountable for the crimes committed and the breach of conflict”

Dr. Simon Adams, executive director, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

“To allow the cessation of hostilities to collapse is to condemn Syrians to further atrocities. Diplomatic pressure must be exerted on all parties to uphold the cease-fire and end war crimes. For five years the international community has failed to uphold its responsibilities to the Syrian people, it must not fail them now.”

Tony Laurance, chief executive, Medical Aid for Palestinians

“Five years of brutal conflict and the consistent denial of humanitarian access have devastated the lives of Syrians and the country’s Palestinian refugee population in areas such as Yarmouk. The shocking trend of attacks on hospitals and medics is an indictment of the failure to protect the most fundamental safe spaces in conflict. It is imperative that governments take action.”

Iain Overton, director, Action on Armed Violence

“Between 2011 and 2015, Action on Armed Violence’s (AOAV) data on harm caused by explosive weapons show that of all those recorded killed or injured by such weapons in Syria, 86 percent were civilians. It is clear that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the vast majority of those harmed will be civilians. AOAV calls for all states to act – and act swiftly – to end the unacceptable harm suffered by civilians the world over from explosive weapons.”

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