Aleppo's oldest area could be destroyed by Christmas - UN

  • 07/10/2016
A boy plays with a bicycle past damaged buildings in the rebel held Seif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo (Reuters)
A boy plays with a bicycle past damaged buildings in the rebel held Seif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo (Reuters)

The oldest part of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, could be completely destroyed by Christmas if bombing doesn't stop there, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria says.

"The bottom line is in a maximum of two months, two and a half months, the city of eastern Aleppo at this rate may be totally destroyed. We are talking about the old city in particular," Staffan de Mistura told a news conference in Geneva.

Mr de Mistura made an impassioned plea from Geneva on Thursday. He said history would judge Syria and Russia if they used the presence of about 900 former Nusra Front fighters as an "easy alibi" for destroying the rebel-held besieged area, killing thousands of the 275,000 citizens, 100,000 of whom are children.

"There is only one thing we are not ready to do: be passive, resign ourselves to another Srebrenica, another Rwanda, which we are sadly ready to recognise written on that wall in front of us, unless something takes place," he said.

He has offered to go to eastern Aleppo himself and escort up to 1000 Islamist fighters out of the city for the sake of a halt to the bombardment by Russian and Syrian forces.

President Bashar al-Assad says his forces will recapture all of Syria, including Aleppo, but he would prefer to do so using local deals and amnesties that will allow rebels to leave for other areas.

According to the transcript of an interview with Denmark's TV 2, he said there were no moderate rebels and that the United States was using the Nusra Front, which changed its name in July and broke allegiance to al-Qaeda, as "a card" in Syria's war.

On Wednesday the army said it was reducing air strikes and shelling in Aleppo to alleviate the humanitarian situation. But it also called on all fighters and their families to leave rebel-held parts of the city or face "their inevitable fate".

The intense bombardment of Aleppo during an army offensive that began two weeks ago has included several strikes on hospitals, residents and medical workers there have said, but Assad denied in the interview any knowledge of such attacks.

Analysis of satellite imagery of a deadly attack on an aid convoy in Syria in September showed that it was an air strike, a UN expert says.

Some 20 people were killed in the attack near Aleppo on the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy. The US blames Russian aircraft but Moscow, which backs the Assad regime, denies the charge.

"With our analysis we determined it was an air strike and I think multiple other sources have said that as well," Lars Bromley, research adviser at UNOSAT, told a Geneva news briefing.