An independent Syrian media activist has made a call on social media this week for the rest of the world to “stand with Aleppo” amid recent reports of intensified fighting, atrocities perpetuated against civilians and the almost near certainty that pro-government forces will rout rebel fighters and reclaim the city after four years of combat.
Salah Ashkar called on people to protest the Syrian regime’s relentless assaults on the divided city, the strains of which on Monday crumbled rebel defences and led to a near total rout of rebel forces.
“We are still here under siege,” he said. “There are a lot of children, and people, helpless. The world has to act now, please… please.”
As of Tuesday, government troops are said to have recaptured approximately 95 percent of the city in what was yesterday a broad military advance by government troops across more than half of the remaining ground held by rebel fights.
Pro-government troops are said to have taken full control of those neighbourhoods rebel fighters withdrew from and are closing in on their last few holdouts.
More than 2,200 rebel fighters surrendered on Monday and as many as 100,000 people are still at risk as fighting for the city continues amid heavy bombardments, air strikes and reports of pro-government troops attacking civilians attempting to flee.
It is in this backdrop that Ashkar, thought still to be within rebel-controlled territory, on Monday urged his viewers on Twitter to block the entrances of embassies and the headquarters of the United Nations.
“This is an urgent call,” Ashkar said in one of two video calls he published on Monday. “Go to the UN headquarters and block the way. Please don’t let them sleep. Do that now. There is no minute to spare.”
His call comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross released a statement beseeching both sides of the conflict to recognise their mutual humanity and prevent inflicting more suffering on civilians still trapped in the city.
“In order for this to happen, we appeal to the parties to put humanity ahead of military objectives”, said ICRC’s Head of Delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, in Aleppo. “We stand ready to oversee the implementation of any mutual agreement that puts civilians first. We cannot urge this strongly enough: this must happen now.”
The Red Cross, in its statement, is quick to point out past efforts failed to bring both sides to commit to averting what the red cross says is a “deepening humanitarian catastrophe.”
And by all accounts the situation for civilians in the city is worsening, as the United Nations said it has received multiple reports of civilians being deliberately targeted and killed by pro-government troops since the collapse of rebel lines on Monday.
Jens Laerke, a UN humanitarian spokesman said that conditions on the ground in Aleppo looked like “a complete meltdown of humanity.”
Rupert Colville, a spokesman of the UN human rights office said reports of civilians being targeted came from several neighbourhoods late Monday evening.
“In all as of yesterday evening we have received reports of pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, in four different neighbourhoods,” Colville said in a press briefing, adding that number could rise. “The reports we had are of people being shot in the street trying to flee and shot in their homes.”