“This has to stop” – ICRC says indiscriminate fighting in Syria’s Aleppo taking heavy toll on civilians

Aleppo-Syria-Fighting-August-2016

The Syrian city of Aleppo is seeing some of the fiercest fighting in months, and the ICRC is concerned about the alarming lack of respect for civilians, health facilities and civilian infrastructure, as well as the growing humanitarian needs in the city.

Pawel Krzysiek, an ICRC spokesperson in Syria, spoke to CNN’s Michael Holmes this week about the situation in Aleppo. “What we have seen in the past couple of weeks has exceeded our expectations,” Krzysiek said. “Shelling, mortars, airstrikes, medical mission attacks, large swaths of civilians being cut off from essential humanitarian aid. This really sounds like hell on earth.”

 See his full CNN interview here.

He added that as elsewhere in Syria, people’s suffering in Aleppo “has been enormous” – particularly that of patients and health workers. “This has to stop… it’s absolute madness,” he told CNN.

Protecting civilians

Following the recent announcement of plans to create humanitarian corridors around Aleppo, the ICRC is insisting that such an action must ensure the safety and respect of all civilians, regardless of whether they decide to leave the city or not.

"Any initiative that can successfully give civilians some respite from the ongoing and indiscriminate violence, and allows them to voluntarily leave for safer areas, would be much welcomed," said Robert Mardini, ICRC's Regional Director for  the Near and Middle East. "But humanitarian corridors need to be well and carefully planned, and have to be implemented with the consent of parties on all sides."

The ICRC’s position is that humanitarian corridors are by definition limited in geographical scope and are thus not an ideal solution. We are therefore reminding the authorities of the need to respect fundamental principles when carrying out such an operation. Namely, under international humanitarian law (or the Law of Armed Conflict as it’s known in the US), parties to the conflict must allow civilians in areas affected by fighting to leave in search of safety should they wish to do so. Those engaged in fighting must also ensure that all necessary measures and precautions are taken to protect civilians. Importantly, aid must be allowed to reach all those in need.

Humanitarian Pause

"What we need urgently is a humanitarian pause in all areas of Aleppo affected by the violence," Mardini said. "We ask for this to be implemented on a daily basis and as soon as possible. Our teams need to reach communities in Eastern Aleppo now, especially families and the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, the sick or injured, and detainees."

For those who do decide to leave their homes, aside from guarantees they can move safely, plans must also ensure they can access appropriate shelter and assistance, and that families are not split up. Those who decide, for whatever reason, to stay in Eastern Aleppo must be protected, and all sides must allow humanitarian agencies to reach and assess their well-being and needs.

For further information, please contact:

Ralph El Hage, ICRC Amman, +962 778 454 382
Krista Armstrong, ICRC Geneva +41 79 447 37 2