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French UN initiative unlikely to end Aleppo fighting

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Syrians flee clashes between government forces and rebels in Tariq al-Bab and al-Sakhour in eastern Aleppo Reuters

France has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo. But the diplomatic battle may not be much help to civilians fleeing a government offensive on armed rebels, experts warn.


The UN said on Tuesday that up to 16,000 civilians have fled parts of eastern Aleppo as the rebels lost all of the northern neighbourhoods of their stronghold.

Today’s situation is the climax of a build-up with President Bashar al-Assad's troops gaining more ground in Aleppo than they have since the conflict started in 2012.

As always, civilians are being caught in the middle.

“Humanitarian conditions in eastern Aleppo have gone from terrible to terrifying,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs said.

“And now [to] barely survivable by human beings. We are not just seeing a resumption of violence in Aleppo. This is not business as usual.

The situation is "yet another low in an unrelenting, inhuman onslaught", he said. "And it is as heartbreaking as it is not inevitable. The parties of the conflict are, all of them, choosing to do this. It is civilians who pay the price."

The pro-government forces, among them fighters from the Iranian-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah, did not meet  much resistance.

“It has been estimated that there are only up to 2,000 fighters of the Syrian Free Army,” says Professor Günter Meyer, of the Center for Research on the Arab World at Germany's University of Mainz.

“This means that a large segment of these jihadi fighters are members of the former Jabhat al Nusra, the dependent of Al-Qaeda and some of the comments from the people who fled from eastern Aleppo, they clearly refer to the fact that they had been used as human shields by the jihadi fighters."

A large segment of these fighters are members of the former Jabhat al-Nusrah, a dependent of Al Qaeda
The situation in Aleppo 01/12/2016 - by Jan van der Made Listen

On Tuesday French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Aleppo. But it is far from certain if any resolution will be adopted.

“It is the same pattern which was used by the US and France and Britain during the last few years,” says Meyer.

“They try to use the Security Council in order to attack the Syrian government and also Russia. And it is to be expected that the proposed resolution of France will definitely be vetoed by Russia.

“But the Security Council is always a quite effective propaganda media to accuse the Syrian government and to accuse Russia of crimes against humanity."

Meanwhile in Damascus, people are following the developments in the north of the country with great concern.

“Until now we didn't see any positive results, neither from the US or Russia, regarding putting an end to this situation in Syria,” says Tabeth Salem, a political analyst based in Damascus.

The capture of Aleppo will not end the hostilities, he warned, "although it is a big contribution of course".

There is less fighting in Damascus since the Russians started to be actively involved in Aleppo, Salem says.

“It is quieter of course and the accords between the government and the rebels surrounding Damascus and the moving of the arms to the north has contributed to the quiet atmosphere which is prevailing for the time being. But we are still exposed to shelling every now and then.

“What worries the Syrians is the difficult economic and of course the security situation. There is nothing radical happening. And of course we are fed up with what the world is doing because they have done nothing."