lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 21 07:16:11 MST 2016
(Years ago Peter Camejo told me that the American left has to stop
splitting over international questions, referring to for example how the
Maoists treated which guerrillas to back in Angola as a test of their
revolutionary credentials. I still think this makes sense even if I
truly wonder how anybody who was radicalized by the war in Vietnam can
read an article like this and continue to serve as spin-doctors for
Putin and Assad.)
NY Times, November 21 2016
Aleppo Bombs Leave Quarter Million ‘Living in Hell’ and Without Hospital
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and HWAIDA SAAD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The remaining hospitals on the rebel-held side of
Aleppo, Syria, have been badly damaged and forced to stop providing care
amid an intensifying bombardment, according to the World Health
Bombs launched by the Syrian government over the past three days
seriously damaged two general hospitals that were providing trauma care
in the war zone and hit the only children’s hospital, according to
doctors, nurses and residents.
The destruction left more than a quarter-million people in eastern
Aleppo without hospital care, the W.H.O. said. It is unclear if the
hospitals will be able to reopen.
“Although some health services are still available through small
clinics, residents no longer have access to trauma care, major
surgeries, and other consultations for serious health conditions,” the
health organization said in a statement issued Sunday.
Dr. Omar, the last neurosurgeon in eastern Aleppo, who declined to
provide his full name out of fear for his safety, sounded desperate when
reached at the height of the bombing on Friday.
“We no longer have hospitals to operate in,” he said. “You can’t imagine
what it’s like living in Aleppo right now. It feels like we are living
in hell. Our neighborhoods are in flames, and bombs are raining down
from the sky. We urgently call on the international community to send help.”
Humanitarian agencies have described the attacks on health care
facilities as deliberate.
The rebel-held area of the city is surrounded by government forces and
has already run out of most food rations, medicines, bandages and fuel.
It has little water.
“The regime is trying to cut off the city,” said Abu Roma, who uses a
nom de guerre and is a rebel commander with the Zinki group, which
opposes President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
“I would say the worst scenario is that we will be martyrs,” he said,
referring to all those remaining in the rebel-held area.
Aleppo, the country’s largest city, has been divided since 2012, but the
situation became markedly worse over the summer. In recent weeks, there
had been a rare respite from airstrikes on rebel-held districts, but
that ended last week.
Now it appears to both fighters and civilians that the Syrian government
has resolved to press forward regardless of the humanitarian cost, and
to gamble that Western countries, particularly the United States, will
not stop them. President Obama has never been keen on military action in
Syria, and the incoming American president, Donald J. Trump, is more
sympathetic to Russia, which has allied with the Syrian government.
“Aleppo is the pivot,” said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East and North
Africa program director for the International Crisis Group.
Although the government might like to reclaim all of the areas where it
has lost control, Russia and Iran, another ally, are less interested,
Mr. Hiltermann said.
“But they all agree on Aleppo,” he said. “It is too big to let go, and
the interregnum in the United States is a good chance to press their
advantage,” he said.
As always in the long-running Syria conflict, the sheer numbers of the
dead and wounded and the scale of misery and destruction fast eclipses
what is imaginable, and each individual story recedes. But the snapshots
from the past few days in rebel-held Aleppo have been deeply disturbing.
A video circulating on social media, which was taken by Al Jazeera
during the bombing at the children’s hospital, showed children being
treated with oxygen masks after an alleged chlorine gas attack elsewhere
in the city.
Al Jazeera captured footage of nurses taking premature infants, whom
they could balance in one hand, out of incubators as clouds of dust from
the bombing rose around them. One nurse hugged another as they held tiny
infants in their arms. The babies were carried to a basement shelter and
placed together under a blanket.
In one shot, a father cried out for his small son. “I’ve lost
everything, oh, Ahmad,” he said. “I’ve lost everything, you are my life.”
For now, the only remaining medical services have gone underground or
into people’s homes, said Mohamed Kahil, the head of the forensic
facility in the rebel-held area of the city. “Hospitals have moved to
basements, to streets, to houses,” he said.
“The medics and staff are still functioning with high energy, but under
harsh conditions,” he said.
Four medics were killed in the five days since intensive bombing
resumed, said Mohamed al-Ahmad, a radiology nurse in Aleppo reached on
As the latest fighting took place, Staffan de Mistura, the United
Nations Special Representative for Syria, traveled to Syria to press for
a suspension of the bombing on all sides; a humanitarian relief effort
to help civilians get medical care, food and fuel; and a guarantee some
sort of safe passage for the insurgents.
Five rebel groups active in and around Aleppo — including the powerful
Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and several groups that receive American
support — said in a letter late Sunday that they supported Mr. de
Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister who met with Mr. de
Mistura, claimed to want to help civilians in the rebel-held areas, whom
the regime views as “hostages” of the insurgents, according to a report
by the Syrian Arab News Agency, which is close to Mr. Assad’s government.
However, Mr. Moallem dismissed out of hand any suggestion that eastern
Aleppo could be self-governing. He said that would be a “reward for the
terrorists,” who he said were still shelling western Aleppo, which is
held by the government. He used as an example children killed Sunday in
a school there. Mr. Moallem said that 11 were killed, but that number
could not be confirmed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented 13 people
killed in government-held Aleppo since Thursday, among them seven
children killed on Sunday. At least 64 people were killed on the
rebel-held side of the city in the same time period.
Mr. Moallem also appeared to reject the idea of a humanitarian pause in
the bombing unless there were guarantees “from the countries supporting
terrorists,” adding that the United Nations did not have any guarantees.
He was referring to the United States and some Arab countries, such as
Saudi Arabia, that have backed some of the groups that oppose the
government of Mr. Assad.
Although groups of fighters said they were prepared to back the United
Nations plan, individual fighters did not sound ready to give up.
“We will never get along with the Alawite; we will exterminate them,”
Hassan Yaacoub, an independent fighter who is not with any faction, said
on WhatsApp, a messaging service, referring to the minority Muslim sect
of which Mr. Assad is a member.
“From now on, I will only talk in sectarian terms,” he said. “The mask
has fallen. Bye, bye Syria, bye bye one Syria; Syria is no more.”
Anne Barnard contributed reporting from Tunis.
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