20 October 2016
While factions fight, children die
The seemingly intractable conflict between the Assad regime and the disparate forces ranged against it has brought torment to the innocent – most visibly in the besieged city of Aleppo
Pope Francis spoke for a watching world when he appealed – “begging, with all my strength” – for an immediate ceasefire to the hostilities in Syria, “imposed and respected at least for the time necessary to allow the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped under cruel bombardment”.
He was speaking the day after Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, urged members of the public to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy in London against the bombing campaign of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, designed to reclaim the city for the Government in Damascus. At their meeting last Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland, Western, Arab and Russian leaders failed to come close to a ceasefire agreement. Western and Arab leaders met again, without Russian or Syrian representatives, in London the next day. Mr Johnson and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, threatened tougher sanctions and warned Putin and Assad that the “barbaric siege of Aleppo” would not succeed. Mr Kerry described the bombing as a “crime against humanity”. On Monday, Russia announced an eight-hour bombing pause for Thursday.
In the east of this once thriving city, 250,000 people are suffering from hunger, thirst and the lack of medical supplies and basic services. The death toll is rising inexorably. According to the UN, 376 people have been killed since the week-long truce ended in September.
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