"Writing on wall" for trapped Aleppo civilians, says UN negotiator

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UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura asked for former Al Nusra rebels to leave Aleppo for the sake of the 275,000 trapped civilians there. Photo: UN Photo/Elma Okic

In Aleppo, thousands of people could die and the whole city may soon be destroyed unless rebel fighters retreat from the city and Syria and Russia call a halt to their aerial bombing campaign, the UN's Staffan de Mistura said Thursday.

In a direct appeal to the three parties in the more than five-year-old conflict, the UN Special Envoy for Syria said that "the writing is on the wall" for Aleppo's civilians.

Here's Daniel Johnson's report from Geneva:

Some 275,000 civilians are besieged in eastern Aleppo which has become a key battleground between the Syrian government and opposition forces.

Among the rebels are between 900 and 1,000 former Al Nusra fighters who are now called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

Unless they pull back from the city, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned, the situation risked becoming "another Srebrenica" and even "another Rwanda" – a reference to past conflicts where civilians paid the highest price.

"The reality is, the writing on the wall, in front of us, if this continues to be the pattern at this rate, unless there is any major game-changer that may change the equation, this cruel, constant use of military activity, bombing, fighting, destruction in eastern Aleppo will continue."

In his appeal to the rebels, Mr de Mistura called on them to leave eastern Aleppo "in dignity" and with their weapons.

He also said he was prepared to accompany them as a guarantee of their safety.

The UN negotiator made a second appeal, this time to Syria and Russia, asking whether they were prepared to carry on using weapons that risked destroying the whole eastern city of Aleppo for the sake of eliminating the rebels.

At the Special Envoy's side, UN humanitarian task force co-chair Jan Egeland said that 861,000 Syrians are now besieged inside the country, nearly 400,000 more than in February.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'45"


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