Aleppo civilians lament UN decision to suspend aid

Residents tell of “horrific” humanitarian situation as food and medical assistance have been lacking for months.

UN Red Crescent aid trucks hit in Urm al Kubra
Air raids targeted UN aid lorries carrying supplies intended for civilians in the Aleppo [Courtesy of the Syrian White Helmets]

A United Nations decision to suspend all aid convoys to Syria has come under fire from Aleppo residents who say that they have not had access to basic humanitarian supplies such as food in months.

“Today the UN stopped the aid to the Syrian people. Our people are dying. We have not had aid come in for a very long time,” Ibrahim al-Hajj, a member of the all-volunteer rescue team known as the Syrian Civil Defence, who spoke to Al Jazeera from Aleppo. “My family and I have one week’s worth of stored food left, and after that, we will run out.”

Al-Hajj is just one of 300,000 Syrians who live in Eastern Aleppo, which has been under a renewed government-imposed siege since earlier this month.

Since mid-2012, the city has been divided between regime control in the west and opposition control in the east. It has come to symbolise the devastation wrought on Syria and its civilian population.

READ MORE: Syria civil war – Why Aleppo matters?

The UN decision came in response to the targeting aid lorries operated by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). Some 20 civilians and one SARC staff member were killed as they were unloading trucks carrying vital humanitarian aid.

They showed us the Eid ceasefire, and on Monday, they showed us hell. It was horrific.

by Marwa Taleb, a resident of Aleppo

“The attack deprives thousands of civilians of much-needed food and medical assistance,” said a statement issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The statement described the incident as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law”.

The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, recorded about 40 civilians wounded in the attack.

The eight-day fragile ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, came to an end on Monday evening. Reports of civilian deaths and heavy bombardment came shortly after. “At 7pm the regime announced the end of the truce. At exactly 7:10pm, Aleppo and its countryside were hit with more than 100 raids of rockets, barrel bombs, cluster bombs and vacuum missiles,” said al-Hajj.

“At least 47 Syrian civilians were killed on Monday: women, men and children as young as eight years old,” added al-Hajj, who accompanies rescue workers to the scene of every attack to document the details.

On Tuesday, ground battles between pro-government forces and rebel fighters raged on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo City. Air raids also targeted a 31-lorry UN convoy carrying humanitarian aid on Monday at Urm al-Kubra, a town west of Aleppo. 

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been a particularly bloody arena in the war between the armed opposition and the government forces. 

Marwa Taleb, a mother and resident living in the east of the city, says she “wishes the ceasefire was never implemented”. “They showed us the Eid ceasefire, and on Monday, they showed us hell. It was horrific. They were vicious and fanatic with their use of cluster bombs. You cannot imagine how much they bombarded us with cluster bombs,” Taleb told Al Jazeera, saying that the attacks took place on the street adjacent to her home.

“The ceasefire was good for the children because they were able to rejoice in Eid. But I wish it was never implemented. We became so desensitised to the bombardment that it has become a regular part of our lives,” continued Taleb. “So, when the shelling started again, the children became very aware of the difference.”

Struggle for survival in Syria’s Aleppo

Aleppo residents say the effects of the siege have been reflected in the high price and scarcity of food in the markets, no available cooking gas or fuel for the cars. They are relying on firewood for cooking and eating mainly grains such as rice, lentils, bulgur, and herbs that can be grown.

“Food prices doubled after Eid. There are only some vegetables in the markets such as eggplant, and zucchini. There is also some parsley and yoghurt, but that is about it,” Zouhir al-Shimale, a local journalist in the city, told Al Jazeera. “One kilogram of meat used to cost $14. Now, it costs $32.” 

With the siege securely in place and government forces making all exit routes out of the city inaccessible, residents such as al-Hajj who are trying to leave are unable to find a way out. 

“All the roads are blocked. I am trying to get my son and my wife out – somewhere, anywhere – but I am not being able to,” said al-Hajj. “Why is everyone attacking us? Why can’t my son live safely like every other child in the world?” 

“We die a thousand deaths every day, and no one cares.” 

Source: Al Jazeera