As Donald Trump met with Kanye West today in Trump Tower, Syrian regime forces bolstered by our new friends in the Kremlin are completing what a UN official called “the complete meltdown of humanity” in the nearly fallen rebel-held city of Aleppo.
Syrian rebels said on Tuesday that an agreement was reached with Russia for a ceasefire to allow the evacuation of remaining civilians and rebels from the area, the Associated Press reports. The Russian Ambassador to the UN has said, according to Reuters, that “no one is going to harm the civilians,” and that the deal is for fighters only to leave Aleppo. It’s unclear how Russia will define a “civilian,” as not many of them remain unharmed.
The UN reports that pro-government forces have murdered approximately 82 civilians, some who were shot in the streets as they tried to flee. (Nearly a year ago, the death toll from the war in Syria was said to be at least 470,000.) “There could be many more,” UN spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday. Others were reportedly shot in their homes, including women and children, and still others are being killed in bombardments. Activists say government forces, known for their use of torture, have detained 6,000 teenage boys and men since mid-November; they are reportedly being conscripted into the Syrian army. Rebel leader Abdullah Othman told The Daily Beast that 20 women committed suicide in order to avoid being raped by regime forces.
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s considers all opposition forces “terrorists,” and Russian leadership has followed suit. Earlier today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is “fed up” with U.S. calls for a ceasefire. “We are tired of hearing this whining from our American colleagues in the current administration that we need to immediately halt military action,” he told reporters, implicitly framing the next administration as one that may be friendlier toward the cause of mass murder—the mass murder that fed a refugee crisis that bolstered the global far-right resurgence that got Donald Trump elected.
“According to alarming reports from a doctor in the city, many children, possibly more than 100, unaccompanied or separated from their families, are trapped in a building, under heavy attack in east Aleppo,” UNICEF said in a statement. There are also reports of a chemical attack in the city of Hama on Monday that’s said to have killed 93 civilians and wounded 300. Colville described “disturbing” reports of streets filled with bodies that could not be retrieved. From The Guardian:
Unverified accounts of extrajudicial killings by forces loyal to Assad, as well as mass detentions and arrests, have surfaced in recent days. In one image circulated by a pro-government parliamentarian, dozens of Syrian men and boys from east Aleppo stand in a detention camp in front of Syrian army soldiers.
“All the doctors at Al-Hayat (field medical clinic) have been executed,” Abu Zubair, 29, told USA Today. “My friends have given their blood. They have fought the fight they chose, for the humanity.”
Activists and civilians have been sending out urgent, pleading messages for the past few days.
Many of these tweets receive horrified replies and messages of hope—and also responses like this:
“Don’t believe anymore in the United Nations,” activist and English teacher Abdulkafi al-Hamdo said in a Periscope broadcast last night.
“Don’t believe anymore in the international community. Don’t think that they are not satisfied with what is going on. They are satisfied that we are being killed.”
UPDATE: Reuters confirmed that Aleppo has effectively fallen as rebels agreed to withdraw from the area, possibly “within hours,” according to the Russian UN Ambassador. President Obama has been heavily criticized for inaction in Syria, and the White House has not commented on the events of the last 48 hours, though Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for a ceasefire, calling the regime’s indiscriminate bombing as “crimes against humanity.” The President-Elect’s most recent tweet is as follows:
A statement released today by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham reads:
“Just a few months after the revolution in Syria began in 2011, President Obama issued a Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities, stating: ‘Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.’ Two years later, President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly: ‘[S]hould we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda, or Srebrenica? If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so, and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.’
“That reckoning is now upon us. The cold logic of mass graves confronts us yet again, and the name Aleppo will echo through history, like Srebrenica and Rwanda, as a testament to our moral failure and everlasting shame.”
UPDATE, 5:20 PM: White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the situation in Aleppo “deeply troubling,” Politico reports. “[T]he innocent loss of life there that has persisted for years at the hands of the Assad regime, enabled by the Russians and Iranians, is deplorable,” he told reporters.