While most of us have been transfixed by the Trump transition team and the formation of the president-elect’s cabinet, the atrocities being committed by Russia and President Assad in Aleppo continue to shock and sicken.
There have been more reports of President Assad using chlorine gas on civilians while the Russians have been concentrating on taking out every single remaining hospital in eastern Aleppo. They’ve even been targeting first-responder staging areas to make sure there will be no assistance to the wounded.
All hospitals in Syria’s besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo are out of service after days of heavy air strikes, its health directorate and the World Health Organization (WHO) said, though a war monitor said some were still functioning.
White House national security adviser Susan Rice said the United States condemned “in the strongest terms” the latest air strikes against hospitals and urged Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to take steps to halt the violence.
Intense air strikes have battered the eastern part of the city since Tuesday, when the Syrian army and its allies resumed operations after a pause lasting weeks. They launched ground attacks against insurgent positions on Friday.
The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 48 people, including at least five children, had been killed in eastern Aleppo on Saturday by dozens of air strikes and barrel bombs and dozens of artillery rounds.
That brings the number of people killed by the increased bombardment of Aleppo and the surrounding countryside over the past five days to about 180, including 97 in the city’s besieged eastern sector, the observatory added.
Warplanes, artillery and helicopters continued bombarding eastern Aleppo on Saturday, hitting many of its densely populated residential districts, the Observatory said. There were intense clashes in the Bustan al-Basha district, it added.
“This destruction of infrastructure essential to life leaves the besieged, resolute people, including all children and elderly men and women, without any health facilities offering life-saving treatment … leaving them to die,” said Aleppo’s health directorate in a statement sent to Reuters late on Friday by an opposition official.
Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said on Saturday that a U.N.-led group of aid agencies based over the border in Turkey “confirmed today that all hospitals in eastern Aleppo are out of service”.
The monitoring group said some hospitals were still operating in besieged parts of Aleppo but said many residents were frightened to use them because of the heavy shelling.
Medical sources, residents and rebels in eastern Aleppo say hospitals have been damaged by air strikes and helicopter barrel bombs in recent days, including direct hits on the buildings.
Neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump is going to confront Russia over the Aleppo bloodbath. But does this mean that Putin and Assad should get a pass for what can easily be defined as “war crimes”? So far, the UN has done nothing but wring its hands over the situation in Aleppo — the clearest sign yet that the world body has zero influence in places where it counts.
Putin has pulled out of the International Criminal Court, leaving that body even more weak and ineffective. And while the civil war continues to rage in Syria, President Bashar Assad is gaining the upper hand, making his prosecution for war crimes a remote possibility.
That Putin can bomb hospitals with impunity and Assad can get away with using chemical weapons proves that any international effort to punish violators of civilized norms in warfare is worse than useless.