UN Calls for 48-Hour Ceasefire So Aid Can Reach War-Ravaged Aleppo

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UN Calls for 48-Hour Ceasefire So Aid Can Reach War-Ravaged Aleppo

Top relief officer at the United Nations calls situation in Syrian city the "apex of horror"

Search and rescue workers carried an injured man after government airstrikes hit a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, last month. (Photo: Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The United Nations is urging all factions inside Syria to commit to a 48-hour ceasefire so that emergency aid and relief workers can save lives and offer assistance to those caught inside the war-ravaged city of Aleppo.

In remarks before the UN Security Council on Monday, Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination, said the situation in Aleppo is beyond dire, describing it as the "apex of horror."

"This callous carnage that is Syria has long since moved from the cynical, to the sinful," O'Brien told the council, whose members he blamed in part for the civil war that has become a proxy for regional forces and global powers like the United States and Russia. "So please: now is the moment, this instant, to put differences aside, come together as one, and stop this humanitarian shame upon us all, once and for all."

Against the odds

According to the New York Times:

United Nations officials have said that the fighting in Aleppo — pitting Syrian government forces and their Russian backers against an array of insurgents, including Islamist militants — has left 275,000 people in rebel-held eastern Aleppo completely cut off from food, water and medicine, and has severely limited aid deliveries to 1.5 million people in government-held western Aleppo.

Humanitarian access to hundreds of thousands of Syrians in other combat zones has been blocked by fighting, security concerns and the Syrian bureaucracy, Mr. O’Brien said, despite an international agreement reached in May to permit truck convoy deliveries.

As a result, Mr. O’Brien said, no convoys were dispatched in August, despite some successful, if limited, deliveries in July.

In addition to five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, whose photo went viral last week after he was pulled from rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo, O'Brien cited the brave rescue and relief workers, known as the "white helmets," who are doing impossible work under increasingly dangerous conditions.

"As we sit here round this safe table, humanitarian rescue workers are risking their lives in search for those buried under the debris," he said.

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While Russia said last week it would agree to a truce, other parties have been slower to make the same commitment. O'Brien said UN agencies are ready to go, but that a truce "cannot be one-sided offer" for the relief effort  to begin. "All we need is for the guns to fall silent," he said.

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