The plight of civilians in western Aleppo, often targeted by rebels, is almost unknown to mainstream viewers. Five children were killed in the govt-controlled part of the city on Thursday, but the attack didn’t get much notice from rights groups or the US.
WARNING: You may find footage disturbing
A school and adjacent bus stop were hit by mortar shells in the Al-Suleymaniya neighborhood of Aleppo. Two children died on the spot and three others later in the hospital.
“Anxious relatives and parents cried and shouted and cursed the rebels and their backers,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev reported from the Al Razi Hospital, where the victims were taken.
“They were just schoolchildren, my pupils,” their teacher told RT.
While filming at the hospital, the RT crew saw the appalling aftermath of indiscriminate fire in western Aleppo. Ten-year-old boy Hassan, born deaf and mute, lost a foot in shelling two days ago, but survived.
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“The day before yesterday, he was playing with other boys in al-Hamadaneyah area when the shell landed there,” one of Hassan’s relatives explained. “One of the boys was torn apart completely and my nephew had his foot blown off.”
Another child, a five-year-old girl named Tasmeem, was hit by a piece of shrapnel from a shell that landed in Western Aleppo on Wednesday. She was brought to the hospital with her intestines hanging out. Doctors have been operating on her, saying she is stable for now.
A boy, who also got injured in the latest attacks, told RT he witnessed his cousin’s death in the shelling.
“A shell landed right next to me. I saw how my cousin was torn apart in front of my eyes,” the boy, lying on a stretcher with a bandaged leg, said.
“Why are you [terrorists] killing us, what have we done to you? Don’t you have a heart?” a woman inside the hospital said, expressing sorrow and frustration.
RT asked several international human rights organizations to comment on the current situation there. The response was very limited.
“What concerns us is that all parties to the conflict are committing violations against children,” Juliette Touma, UNICEF spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa said. “Violations against children in Syria should come to an end.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information about this specific attack (or attacks on West Aleppo more broadly at this stage),” Human Rights Watch said in a written response.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that while given the scope of violence in Syria they cannot verify every each incident in any part of the country, the recent escalations are “alarming.”
“While the humanitarian situation is particularly dramatic [in the east], the whole of Aleppo is affected by the ongoing violence. Thousands more families have been displaced within or to western Aleppo recently, and civilians are also being killed by the ongoing shelling,” spokesperson Krista Armstrong told RT in an email.
“The ICRC urges all parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in densely populated areas, due to the significant likelihood of indiscriminate effects,” she added.
The government-held part of the city meanwhile remains plagued by a worsening humanitarian situation. Over 250,000 people are living in the eastern part, according to UN estimates. In contrast to that, at least 1.2 million people are living in the western areas. Many fear that the suffering and terror of civilians in the government-controlled part of Aleppo may be overlooked and neglected.
When asked to comment on the shelling in government-controlled western Aleppo, where five children were killed on Thursday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told RT’s Gayane Chichakyan that he was not aware of the incident.
Civilian suffering in eastern Aleppo has been the focus of everybody’s attention, and rightly so. Does the US government pay any attention to the suffering of civilians in the western part of the city?
At least 5 children dead as rebels shell govt-controlled area in Aleppo (DISTURBING VIDEO)
“We consider any civilian loss of life as a result of the conflict in Syria to be one too many. And it’s the reason why we were trying so hard to get a suspension of hostilities in place so that we could get back to a political negotiation. What you have now in Aleppo is a full-on conflict, and in that kind of climate and environment you’re going to have civilians pay the price,” Toner said.
The US has long promised to separate the rebels from terrorists. An Al-Nusra commander revealed in a recent interview how the group has been receiving outside support, including American weapons. It is believed that a number of US-backed groups are also working side by side with the Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Moscow has repeatedly insisted that any peace plan for Syria – and in particular for Aleppo – will not bear fruit until the US-backed rebels clearly distance themselves from Al-Nusra.
Russia is not convinced that the US is seriously fighting militants from the Al-Nusra terrorist group in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week, adding that though American fighter jets make a lot of flights, they do not hit many targets.