UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday said he was “appalled by the chilling military escalation” in Syria’s battleground city of Aleppo, where residents cowered indoors as airstrikes toppled buildings and killed at least 45 civilians.
The UN Security Council was set to meet yesterday to discuss the upsurge in violence since the Syrian army announced an offensive to retake the rebel-held east of the devastated city.
About 2 million civilians were left without water in Aleppo after regime bombardment damaged a pumping station and rebels shut down another in retaliation, the UN said.
Ban warned that the use of bunker buster bombs and other advanced munitions against civilians may amount to war crimes, after the Syrian army on Thursday launched the offensive backed by Russian air raids that has cost about 100 lives.
Top EU officials said that the attacks on civilians amount to a “breach of international humanitarian law,” and called for intensified peace efforts.
Washington and leading European powers on Saturday said that “the burden is on Russia ... to salvage diplomatic efforts to restore a cessation of hostilities.”
A week-long ceasefire agreed between the US and Russia ended on Monday last week and efforts to revive the truce failed.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who failed in talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to revive the ceasefire, earlier said: “What is happening in Aleppo today is unacceptable. It is beyond the pale.”
“If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome ... they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community,” he said.
Kerry had harsh words for Moscow’s involvement in the conflict, in comments at a meeting with his European counterparts.
“Russia needs to set an example, not a precedent — an unacceptable precedent, I might add, for the entire world,” he said.
The Syrian regime said it was confident of victory, with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem telling the UN General Assembly that the Syrian army and its allies were making “great strides” in the conflict.
Rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo came under intense air and artillery fire for a fifth night on Friday.
“Our belief in victory is even greater now that the Syrian Arab Army is making great strides in its war against terrorism, with the support of the true friends of the Syrian people,” Muallem told the UN, singling out Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Saturday’s death toll of 45 in Aleppo city was expected to rise because people remained trapped in the rubble, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
It said another seven people were killed elsewhere in Aleppo province on Saturday.
“We were home when a missile crashed into our road,” said one resident of the Bab al-Nayrab district who gave his name as Nizar.
“Half of the building just caved in and our baby was hit on the head. He died on the spot,” Nizar said, the body of his son on the ground wrapped in a blanket.
Seven people were killed in a strike as they queued to buy yoghurt at a market in the Bustan al-Qasr district on the front line dividing the government-held west from the rebel-held east of the city.
On Friday, at least 47 people were killed in heavy bombing, among them seven children, the observatory said.
There was massive destruction in several neighborhoods, including al-Kalasseh and Bustan al-Qasr, where some streets were almost erased by the bombardment.
Residents and activists said one type of bomb had produced earthquake-like tremors upon impact, razing buildings right down to their basements where many residents desperately seek safety during attacks.
POINT-BLANK RANGE: Reporters and camera people from several outlets say police officers in Minneapolis had fired tear gas and rubber bullets directly at them Multiple journalists on the ground in Minnesota said they were teargassed and subject to other attacks by police on Saturday evening, a day after the widely condemned arrest of a CNN reporter live on air. Los Angeles Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who was reporting outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, said she was with a group of about a dozen journalists when the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters on us at point blank range.” “I was saying: ‘Where do we go?’ They did not tell us where to go. They didn’t direct us. They just fired on us,” she said
For nearly a decade, the UN Security Council has been frequently paralyzed by Russia’s obstinacy over the Syrian crisis. Today, however, it is the US-China rivalry that has infected a growing array of issues, according to officials and diplomats. As recently as 2017, an understanding between Washington and Beijing allowed the UN on three occasions — involving separate sets of economic sanctions — to project international unity in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat. Three years later, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a ferocious competition erupt between the UN’s two main contributors, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May
HISTORIC FLIGHT: The astronauts named their capsule ‘Endeavour,’ after the space shuttle on which they both flew, while Elon Musk said he was overcome with emotion Two veteran NASA astronauts headed for the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday after Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Saturday became the first commercial company to launch a rocket carrying humans into orbit, ushering in a new era in space travel. SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard blasted off flawlessly in a cloud of bright orange flames and smoke from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a 19-hour voyage to the space station. “Let’s light this candle,” Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22pm from NASA’s
INDIA Pride to be preserved The nation would not let its “pride be hurt” in its latest border flare-ups with China, but is determined to settle the dispute through talks, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh said in a television interview late on Saturday. “Situations arise with China. It has happened before,” Singh said, adding that the government was striving to make sure “tension does not escalate.” The government has turned down US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, he said. IRAN Speaker says talks futile Newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf yesterday said that any negotiations with the US would be “futile.” The nation’s