Aleppo battle: UN says 82 civilians shot on the spot

Aleppo battle: UN says 82 civilians shot on the spot
A stream of people try to flee the fighting

Syrian pro-government forces have been entering homes in eastern Aleppo and killing those inside, including women and children, the UN says.

The UN’s human rights office said it had reliable evidence that in four areas 82 civilians were shot on sight.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency cited a doctor as saying a building housing as many as 100 unaccompanied children was under heavy attack.

Rebels, who have held east Aleppo for four years, are on the brink of defeat.

Thousands of people are reportedly trapped in the last remaining neighbourhoods still in rebel hands, facing intense bombardment as pro-government troops advance.

The Syrian government’s ally Russia, which has rejected calls for a humanitarian truce, earlier said any atrocities were “actually being committed by terrorist groups”, meaning rebel forces.

What’s happening in rebel areas?

“We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner” of eastern Aleppo, UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference.

He said that of the 82 civilians reportedly shot by pro-government forces, 11 were women and 13 were children.

Syrians in western Aleppo celebrated at the prospect of an imminent victory in the east

“Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying on the streets,” Mr Colville added, while admitting it was hard to verify the reports.

“The residents were unable to retrieve them due to the intense bombardment and their fear of being shot on sight.”

Meanwhile, Unicef quoted a doctor in the city as saying: “Many children, possibly more than 100, unaccompanied or separated from their families, are trapped in a building, under heavy attack in east Aleppo”.

It is hard to know exactly how many people are trapped in the besieged areas, although one US official with knowledge of efforts to secure safe passage for people in the city told the BBC that there were around 50,000 people.

Some residents have sent out messages saying they are crowded into abandoned apartments and rainy streets, unable to take shelter from the bombing, the New York Times reports.

Many are said to be fearful about what will happen to them after the city falls, particularly since the allegations of summary killings in areas that had already fallen became known.

The Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides says it has helped 7,796 civilians leave rebel-held areas in the past 24 hours.

How close are rebel-held areas to falling?

It is not entirely clear, but Russia’s military says 98% of the city is now back in government hands.

According to the AFP news agency, the rebels have control of just a handful of neighbourhoods, including Sukkari and Mashhad.

Drone footage reveals the extent of the devastation in eastern Aleppo

The Syrian army’s Lt Gen Zaid al-Saleh said on Monday that the battle “should end quickly”, telling the rebels they “either have to surrender or die”.

The UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), has also said the battle for Aleppo had reached its end, with “just a matter of a small period of time” before “a total collapse”.

What is the world saying about it?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is alarmed by the reports of atrocities and has instructed his special envoy to Syria to “follow up urgently with the parties concerned”.

The ICRC has said people have “literally nowhere safe to run”, and warned that the basic rules of war and humanity must be respected to avert a humanitarian crisis.

The UN’s humanitarian adviser on Syria, Jan Egeland, earlier spoke of “massacres of unarmed civilians, of young men, of women, children, health workers”.

He named a pro-government Iraqi Shia militia as being responsible for the killings, but placed overall blame for any atrocities in the hands of the Syrian and Russian governments.

“Those who let them loose in this area are also accountable,” he said.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Egeland was not in full possession of the facts on the ground. “If he did, he would be paying attention to the atrocities that are actually being committed by terrorist groups,” he said.

For much of the past four years, Aleppo has been divided roughly in two, with the government controlling the western half and rebels the east.

Syrian troops finally broke the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes, reinstating a siege on the east in early September and launching an all-out assault weeks later.

Analysts say the fall of Aleppo would be a big blow to the opposition, as it would leave the government in control of Syria’s four largest cities.

Aleppo: “Complete meltdown of humanity” says UN – BBC News