‘Syria is bleeding’ amid political jockeying and grandstanding: UN aid chief tells Security Council

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Victims of air raids in Aleppo. File photo

GENEVA (UN) – In an impassioned appeal to the Security Council, the United Nations’ top relief official called for an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, said that at a minimum, a lull was needed so that humanitarian assistance could reach those who desperately need it.

“Syria is bleeding. Its citizens are dying. We all hear their cry for help. As humanitarians we are doing all we can,” O’Brien told the 15-member Council on Thursday. 

He reminded the Security Council that last week, even as world leaders discussed Syria in high-level meetings and the General Assembly, violence intensified in the war-torn middle-eastern country. Civilians and aid workers were killed. 

“It is time to place blame. It is time this Council stops tolerating the utter disregard for the most basic provisions of international humanitarian law,” O’Brien underscored. 

Recounting the intensification of fighting across the country and in particular in eastern Aleppo, the UN official stressed: “This is not an unforeseen result of forces beyond our control. This is due to the action of parties to the conflict and it is the direct result of inaction – be it through unwillingness or inability – by the international community, including most notably those present in this chamber.” 

According to the United Nations’ Emergency Relief Coordinator, the situation in Syria is a critical test for the members of the Security Council. Syria tests their “capacity and willingness” to uphold the words of the UN Charter, “to save the Syrian people from the scourge of war.”

The iconic city of Aleppo is the worst affected municipality in the country. According to estimates, since September 22 when the Syrian Army launched a new offensive, some 320 civilians were killed and 765 injured. It is particularly disconcerting that over 100 children have been killed. 

“These are not simply numbers to be added to a tally, these are individuals, family lives that we have collectively failed to save,” lamented O’Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

He also drew attention to the alleged use of “bunker busting” bombs O’Brien said that these bombs have caused massive destruction in areas that were already decimated. 

“This means there are bodies of babies, children, women and men stuck unrecovered in the rubble of basements up to 20 metres down where they had taken refuge – and where they had been safe until the use of these recently introduced weapons,” he said.

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