The record of the US government in Syria is shameful. We have supported the non-Islamist rebels only sporadically and ineffectively. We have failed to ensure that aid gets through to people besieged by either the Syrian government or rebels. We focus our energy on bombing ISIS (and thus also bomb and kill Syrian civilians), without doing anything to prevent the Syrian government from murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians. We should have intervened long ago - at the very least created a no-fly zone in part of Syria to provide a haven for refugees and to prevent the Syrian government from dropping barrel bombs and chlorine gas on their own people. We should have (and can still) supported the Syrian Kurds far more effectively than we have. On our own, we probably could not have ended the civil war, but we could at least have prevented some of the civilian deaths.
Why do I say this now?
Because of the siege of Aleppo. The bombardment of the rebel-held areas of the city by the Assad regime and the Russians has vastly increased. Yesterday, they "launched ferocious aerial assaults on opposition-held areas of Aleppo amid threats of a big ground offensive."
Two million people are now without access to water - caused both by the Syrian government, which bombed the water station in the eastern part of the city, which is held by the rebels - and by the rebels, who switched off another water station, located in the eastern part of the city, but which furnishes water to the western part, held by the government.
On February 11, 2016, the Syrian Center for Policy Research said that 470,000 Syrians had died as a result of the war. How many have died since then?
The Syrian government is responsible for the overwhelming percentage of deaths of civilians. In October of 2015, the Syrian Center for Policy Research reported that 3/4 of the civilian deaths in the first half of 2015 were caused by the Syrian government.
An article from yesterday's New York Times tells the horrifying story of the increasingly bloody siege of Aleppo - "'Doomsday Today in Aleppo': Assad and Russian Forces Bombard City."
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Syria’s war escalated abruptly on Friday as government forces and their Russian allies launched ferocious aerial assaults on opposition-held areas of Aleppo amid threats of a big ground offensive, while efforts at the United Nations to revive a cease-fire appeared to collapse.
Repeated airstrikes that obliterated buildings and engulfed neighborhoods in flames killed about 100 people in Aleppo, the divided northern Syrian city that has epitomized the horrors of the war, turning the brief cease-fire of last week and hopes for humanitarian relief into faint memories. The bombings knocked out running water to an estimated two million people, the United Nations said.
“It is the worst day that we’ve had for a very long time,” said James Le Mesurier, the head of Mayday Rescue, which trains Syrian rescue workers. “They are calling it Dresden-esque.”
The bombings shook the ground, left residents cowering in their homes and made streets impassable, according to anti-government activists in Aleppo. “You don’t know if you might stay alive or not,” said Modar Shekho, a nurse at al-Dakkak hospital in an opposition-held part of the city.
“There are no more roads to walk on,” said Zaher Azzaher, an Aleppo activist reached through WhatsApp. “Even between our neighborhoods, the roads are full of rubble and destruction.” ....
Rescue workers shared numerous videos of men digging children out of piles of debris and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
Hanaa Singer, the representative for Unicef in Syria, said in a statementthat attacks had damaged the pumping station that provides water to eastern Aleppo, where 250,000 residents are surrounded by government troops. In retaliation, she said, a pumping station in the city’s eastern side was shut off, stopping water from flowing to 1.5 million residents in the city’s western side.
The population would have to rely on well water, which is often contaminated and would raise the risk of outbreaks of disease, she said.
Ammar al-Salmo, head of the Aleppo branch of Syria Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue organization, said that three of his group’s centers had been bombed and that some of their rescue vehicles had been knocked out.
“It is as if Russia and the regime used the truce only to maintain their weapons and plan on next targets,” Mr. Salmo said from Aleppo. “It is like doomsday today in Aleppo.”See also an article published by Bloomberg today - Syrian Troops Advance in Aleppo Amid War's Heaviest Bombing.
Beirut (AP) -- Syrian troops captured a rebel-held area on the edge of Aleppo on Saturday, tightening their siege on opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city after what residents described as the heaviest air bombardment of the 5 ½-year civil war.
The U.N. meanwhile said that nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and onetime commercial center, are without running water following the escalation in fighting over the past few days....
The Observatory said the death toll in Aleppo is expected to rise since many people are in critical condition and rescue workers are still digging through the rubble.
Residents say the latest bombardment is the worst they've seen since rebels captured parts of the city in 2012. Activists reported dozens of airstrikes on Friday alone.
"Since the beginning of the crisis, Aleppo has not been subjected to such a vicious campaign," said Mohammed Abu Jaafar, a forensics expert based in the city. "Aleppo is being wiped out."
For days, videos and photographs from eastern Aleppo have shown flattened buildings and paramedics pulling bodies from the rubble. Wounded people have flooded into clinics, where many are being treated on the floor because of a lack of stretchers.
"People in Aleppo already suffocating under the effects of the siege, have yet again come under horrific attack," said Carlos Francisco of Doctors Without Borders, which supports a number of area clinics. "No aid, including urgent medical supplies, is allowed to enter."
"We are deeply worried by the high numbers of wounded reported by the hospitals we support, and also know that in many areas the wounded and sick have nowhere to go at all — they are simply left to die."
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the "chilling" escalation in Aleppo, which he said marked the "most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict." The statement issued by his spokesman said the reported use of "indiscriminate" weapons in densely populated areas "may amount to war crimes."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Tufts University in Boston, said what was happening in Aleppo was "beyond the pale."
"If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war, then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community," he said.Kerry is speaking to the wind. The Russians just broke the last agreement to cease fighting, and they and the Syrian government have increased their attacks upon Aleppo.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, one of Syria's main opposition groups, condemned the attacks on Aleppo, calling it "a crazy crime led by the Assad regime and Russian occupation." It said "the criminal campaign aims to settle international accounts at the expense of Syrians' blood."
The escalation comes as diplomats in New York have failed to salvage a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that lasted nearly a week. Moscow is a key ally of Assad's government, while Washington supports the opposition.
Aleppo has been an epicenter of fighting in recent months. It is the last major urban area held by the opposition, and the rebels' defeat there would mark a major turning point in the conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people and driven half of Syria's population from their homes. [I've seen figures that at least 450,000 people have been killed in Syria, 90% of them by the Syrian government].
Living conditions in the already-battered eastern districts have meanwhile grown even worse.
Recent attacks have damaged the Bab al-Nairab station, which supplies water to some 250,000 people in the rebel-held east, according to Hanaa Singer of the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF.
Singer said that in retaliation, the Suleiman al-Halabi pumping station, also located in the rebel-held east, was switched off — cutting water to 1.5 million people in government-held western parts of the city.
"Depriving children of water puts them at risk of catastrophic outbreaks of water-borne diseases," Singer warned in her statement, released late Friday.