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16,000 Displaced as France Calls for ‘Immediate’ U.N. Meeting on Aleppo | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Heavily destroyed buildings are seen in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha neighborhood on November 28, 2016 / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN

France on Tuesday called for an “immediate” United Nations Security Council meeting on Aleppo to tackle a “humanitarian disaster” as the U.N. said up to 16,000 people have been displaced by intense attacks on the rebel-held eastern part of the city.

“More than ever, there is an urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance”, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement on Aleppo, where tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped in the fighting between regime troops and rebels.

The call came as the Syrian regime forces advanced deep inside east Aleppo, taking several neighborhoods from the opposition in an onslaught to recapture the entire city.

The regime gains have prompted an exodus of thousands of desperate civilians, some fleeing to districts held by the regime or Kurdish forces, others heading south into areas still under opposition control.

U.N. humanitarian chief and relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said: “The intensity of attacks on eastern Aleppo neighborhoods over the past few days has forced thousands of civilians to flee to other parts of the city.”

He added that reports from the U.N.’s humanitarian partners indicated that “up to 16,000 people have been displaced, many into uncertain and precarious situations”.

O’Brien described the situation as “chilling”.

For the Assad regime, taking back Aleppo would shore up his grip over the main population centers of western Syria where he and his allies have focused their firepower while much of the rest of the country remains outside their control.

Ayrault said last week that Paris would host a high-level ministerial meeting in December to discuss the means to end the bloodshed in Syria.

The meeting will gather foreign ministers of countries supporting the moderate Syrian opposition, including the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

A French diplomatic source said that Ayrault and his German counterpart would discuss Aleppo with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a meeting in Minsk on Tuesday.