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Halt Aleppo ‘Bloodbath’, MSF Tells Damascus, Moscow | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People walk on the rubble of damaged buildings at a site hit overnight by an air strike in the rebel-held area of Seif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Friday appealed to the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to stop bombing rebel-held eastern Aleppo, warning they were provoking a “bloodbath” among civilians in the city.

Syrian regime forces and rebels clashed in fierce battles north of Aleppo and in the city center on Friday, a week into a Russian-backed offensive by the Syrian regime fores to take the entire city, a war monitor and sources on both sides said.

A Syrian regime source claimed they had captured territory north of the city and buildings in the city center after Friday’s fighting.

Rebel sources however denied any additional advances north of the city by government forces that seized the Handarat camp area north of Aleppo on Thursday. A rebel official said regime forces had advanced in the Suleiman al-Halabi district of central Aleppo, but were then forced to withdraw.

The Syrian regime and its allies launched a Russian-backed offensive one week ago aimed at capturing rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo that are home to more than 250,000 people.

A water station was bombed in the Suleiman al-Halabi district, dealing a further blow to a water system already badly damaged during the offensive. The Observatory blamed government forces. A Syrian regime source, however, said rebels had blown it up.

The Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, reported heavy bombardment by government forces and violent “back and forth” fighting in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood.

In the fighting north of Aleppo, the Observatory and a television station operated by Hezbollah said regime forces had taken the Kindi Hospital area adjacent to the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp, a few kilometres (miles) from the city. Hezbollah is a Lebanese group fighting alongside the army.

But rebel sources denied that the regime had captured the Kindi Hospital area, saying fighting was still going on.

A senior rebel official also said that regime forces were shelling the rebel-held districts with artillery from a hilltop to the east of the city.

WHO calls for halting attacks

Fighting in Syria’s besieged eastern Aleppo has killed 338 people in the past few weeks, including 106 children, and 846 have been wounded, including 261 children, a World Health Organization official said on Friday.

“We are asking for four things: stop the killing, stop attacks on health care, let the sick and wounded out and let the aid in,” Rick Brennan, WHO’s head of emergency risk management and humanitarian response, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The situation really is unfathomable.”

After the campaign launched by Russia and the Syrian regime to retake Aleppo, Brennan said it was obvious what to expect: “There will be shrapnel wounds, there will be blast wounds, there will be burns, penetrating injuries to the head, chest and abdomen. There will be lost limbs, there will be fractures. The range of injuries is pretty predictable.”

No hospital was able to take hundreds of patients at a time, he said.

Brennan said WHO had had supplies for 140,000 people ready for weeks, but the security situation prevented it from taking essential medical equipment into the city.

Asked if WHO had permission from Damascus to send in medical supplies if the security situation allowed, he said negotiations to get access were continuing and he met with regime officials last week.

“They are aware of the urgency of the situation.”

He also said WHO had met Russian officials previously and made it “very, very clear” about the need for evacuations and the need to stop attacks.

“I think that those communications are still ongoing, and we’ve had some exchanges over the last few days, and there is an interest in facilitating evacuations, but those communications have been ongoing,” he said.