The city of Aleppo — held by Syria’s rebel forces for five years — is falling to pro-government troops, and mass slaughter of civilians is underway.
According to Al Jazeera, Syrian government troops have been entering the homes of non-combatant civilians and killing at least 82, including 11 women, and 13 children “on the spot.” United Nations (UN) human rights spokesman Rupert Colville called the Aleppo takeover “a complete meltdown of humanity.”
Prior to the slaughter by government forces, East Aleppo — the half controlled by rebels — was rocked by constant airstrikes from both Syrian and Russian jets. The death toll resulting from the bombings is not yet known, but Syrian volunteer rescue group The White Helmets described the situation as “hell,” with razed buildings and streets “full of dead bodies.” ABC News editor Jon Williams tweeted a statement from The White Helmets pleading for international authorities to save the roughly 100,000 men, women, and children remaining in a 4-kilometer area of East Aleppo from being killed by airstrikes and executions:
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) December 13, 2016
White Helmets spokesman Ibrahim Abu al-Laith told Al Jazeera that many are opting to take their own lives rather than allow themselves to be taken by Assad’s troops.
“Our fate is sealed. Why would we hide, it won’t do us any good. We will either die or be captured,” al-Laith said.
The Daily Beast reported that many of those killed were families fleeing Aleppo on foot with simply no shelter from the bombs:
Civilians were apparently crammed into whatever buildings still remain in the tiny quarters yet to be recaptured by the Assadists, but many were left outside in the streets, owing to lack of space. It is here, in broad daylight, [rebel leader Abdullah] Othman said, that men, women and children were being cooked alive by barrel bombs [metal containers filled with explosives and shrapnel] dropped right where they stood… Yesterday, some residents who couldn’t take the bombardment anymore fled toward regime controlled areas, according to Othman.
“Seventy-nine of them were executed at the barricades. The rest — everyone under 40 — were taken to warehouses that look more like internment camps. They face an unknown fate,” he said.
“This morning 20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.”
UNICEF, citing an unnamed doctor, also alerted the international community to a child welfare crisis as a result of the bombings. The fate of the children remains unknown.
“Many children, possibly more than 100, unaccompanied or separated from their families, are trapped in a building, under heavy attack in east Aleppo,” UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere told Al Jazeera.
Syria’s revolutionaries have taken their pleas to social media in an effort to get their last words out before being captured or executed by pro-Assad death squads. 26-year-old activist Lina Shamy posted a short message to Twitter on Tuesday asking for emergency intervention, saying it would likely be her last video. Shamy’s message has been retweeted over 26,000 times as of this writing.
“To everyone who can hear me. We are here exposed to a genocide in the besieged city of Aleppo. This may be my last video. More than 50,000 civilians who rebelled against the dictator, al-Assad, are threatened with field executions or dying under bombing,” Shamy said. “According to activists, more than 180 people have been field executed in the areas the regime has recently retook control of by Assad’s gangs and the militias that support them. The civilians are stuck in a very small area that doesn’t exceed two square kilometers. With no safe zones, no life, every bomb is a new massacre.”
“Save Aleppo, save humanity,” she added.
— Lina shamy (@Linashamy) December 12, 2016
UN spokesman Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights, called on the United States and other nations on the UN Security Council to intervene to stop the ongoing slaughter of Aleppo’s citizens.
“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction – and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,” al-Hussein said in a public statement. “What can happen next, if the international community continues to collectively wring its hands, can be much more dangerous. What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idleb. We cannot let this continue.”
Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) issued a statement Tuesday that said the fall of Syria’s rebel stronghold was “a testament to our moral failure and everlasting shame.”
“There are now reports that a ‘ceasefire’ has been reached in the city,” the statement read. “This is not a cause to celebrate, but a sure sign of the fate that awaits other Syrian cities … the Assad regime will use the ceasefire to reset its war machine and prepare to slaughter its way to victory across the rest of the country.”
A public statement issued by the White House on December 7 condemned “war crimes” being committed by regime forces, and called on Russia to stop blocking UN Security Council action to address the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.
“We urge all parties in Syria to adhere to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions. UN SG Ban Ki-moon has spoken about war crimes being committed in Syria. There must not be impunity for those responsible,” the White House statement read. “We call on the UN to investigate respective reports and gather evidence to hold the perpetrators of war crimes to account. We are ready to consider additional restrictive measures against individuals and entities that act for or on behalf of the Syrian regime.”
As of this writing, President-elect Donald Trump has not publicly commented on the fall of Aleppo. He did, however, officially nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State on Tuesday. Tillerson has been criticized as too friendly with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been openly supporting the Assad regime’s attacks on anti-government rebels since September of 2015.