Escape from hell: Residents flee Aleppo as UN reports civilian slaughter

Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood, arrive in Aleppo’s Fardos area on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2016
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Escape from hell: Residents flee Aleppo as UN reports civilian slaughter

JEDDAH/NEW YORK/ALEPPO: A Syrian regime’s offensive in Aleppo, backed by Russia and Iran, was over, Russia’s UN envoy said on Tuesday as the US described the violence in the besieged city as “modern evil.”
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said an agreement had been struck for opposition fighters to evacuate the northwestern city and he said civilians would be unharmed, despite western and UN accusations of the intentional killing of civilians.
“Over the last hour we have received information that the military activities in east Aleppo have stopped,” Churkin told a heated UN Security Council meeting called by France and Britain. “The Syrian government has established control over east Aleppo.”
The UN said on Tuesday it had reports that Syrian soldiers and allied Iraqi fighters had summarily shot dead 82 civilians in recaptured districts of Aleppo.
“They have gone from siege to slaughter,” British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the 15-member council.
Saudi Arabia’s Senior ulema panel said it’s time for world action against the Syrian regime’s “criminal massacres” in Aleppo.
“The criminal Syrian regime has committed the ugliest crimes in a way unknown in modern history, where the bodies of the dead fill the streets and under the rubble of destroyed buildings,” the secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars said in a statement carried by SPA.
“The savage bombardment harvests lives everywhere, including in hospitals and houses of worship, while the international community is helpless or ineffective to take any decision to deter this criminal machine,” it added.
The panel said it’s time for the world and international organizations to end their indifference and move “to deter the criminal machine of Bashar Assad.”
It appealed to the Muslim world “to rise in support of its causes and stand with all its energy for its rights.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) condemned “the barbaric shelling” of Aleppo and called on the UN to move quickly to provide relief to the Syrian people.
“The GCC states strongly denounce the killing, siege and starvation that the ancient and historic city of Aleppo is subjected to as a violation of all humanitarian rights guaranteed by international law,” the bloc said in a statement issued by its Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani.
The United Nations described the situation as a “complete meltdown of humanity.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his briefing to the council, called on the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran to urgently allow civilians to escape Aleppo.
“There was an abundance of early warning given to this council regarding the situation in Aleppo,” Ban said. “We have collectively failed the people of Syria ... History will not easily absolve us.”
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran would be responsible for atrocities committed in Aleppo.
“By rejecting UN/ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) evacuation efforts you are signaling to those militia who are massacring innocents to keep doing what they are doing,” Power said.
“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later — Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica and now Aleppo,” she said.
As the four-month siege neared its end, some survivors trudged in the rain past dead bodies to the regime-held west or the few districts still in rebel hands.
Others stayed in their homes and awaited the regime army’s arrival.
For all of them, fear of arrest, conscription or summary execution had added to the daily terror of bombardment.
“People are saying the troops have lists of families of fighters and are asking them if they had sons with the terrorists. (They are) then either left or shot and left to die,” said Abu Malek Al-Shamali in Seif Al-Dawla, one of the last rebel-held neighborhoods.
Abu Yousef, in his 30s, said he and his family fled bombardments, tanks and executions in his home neighborhood of Bustan Al-Qasr.
“Thanks be to God, we are still alive ... the regime is constantly bombing us. My two children are injured, I am injured. The regime wants to kill us all. We are very afraid,” he said.
“You tell me ‘may God protect you’ we want a solution! We want a cessation of hostilities. We want someone to get us out of here. It’s enough. People are dying,” he said.
The UN has called for international oversight for civilians and rebel fighters as the government takes over.
The civil defense wrote on its Twitter account on Tuesday it could no longer keep track of the numbers of dead.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that what we are seeing now in Aleppo could happen to populations of other towns outside government control such as Douma, Raqqa and Idlib.
Qatar called for an emergency Arab League meeting to discuss the situation in Aleppo.
The request was made for a meeting at the level of representatives to the Cairo-based Arab League.
Egypt’s state news agency also reported that a request had been made by Qatar’s delegation to the Arab League “to discuss the tragic situation in Aleppo.”

— with input from REUTERS, AP, AFP


Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

Updated 20 September 2019

Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

  • Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies
  • Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies

ALGIERS: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country's army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital's main post office square, the epicentre of Algeria's protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April, this time calling for the ouster of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
"The people want the fall of Gaid Salah," the strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria, they chanted. "Take us all to prison, the people will not stop."
Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.
Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on protests came just days after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika's departure.
The army chief has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president's loyalists -- including Gaid Salah himself -- before any vote.
In the runup to the latest rally, as on previous Fridays, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
As a police helicopter scoured the skies, security forces also stopped cars headed towards the city centre from its southwest entrance, where a dozen anti-riot police vans were stationed.
Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as "illegal".
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.