Planes linked to the joint Syrian-Russian offensive have dropped leaflets over areas in rebel-held eastern Aleppo telling the estimated 250,000 residents there, “Everyone has given up on you,” and warning them that they “will be annihilated,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Northern Syria’s Aleppo province has been at the epicenter of the ongoing civil war in Syria that began more than five years ago.
Since around mid-2012, Aleppo city, the capital of the province of the same name, has been roughly divided between Russian-backed Syrian regime control in the west and rebel control in the east.
In the provincial capital, forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad have repeatedly crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and launching a barrage of airstrikes that have left tens of thousands of people dead and wounded.
On Monday, HRW published an English translation of the Arabic leaflets dropped by Russian-Syrian offensive last week.
“If you do not leave these areas urgently, you will be annihilated… You know that everyone has given up on you,” say the leaflets. “They left you alone to face your doom.”
Al Arabiya reports that the Russian-backed Syrian regime has delivered similar messages in the past.
On Tuesday, The New York Times (NYT) learned from Hisham al-Skeif, a member of a council of rebels and civilians in eastern Aleppo, “that warplanes had hovered closely over the area, steadily dropping barrel bombs, as a delegation of civic activists explored the idea of using so-called safe routes to leave the city, though many were not confident they could escape with their lives.”
During a month-long airstrike campaign between September and October, the Russian-backed Assad regime committed various war crimes, reports HRW.
The human rights NGO points out:
The Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian civil monitoring organization, documented that the bombing campaign killed more than 440 civilians, including more than 90 children. Airstrikes often appeared to be recklessly indiscriminate, deliberately targeted at least one medical facility, and included the use of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster munitions and incendiary weapons.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the Syrian conflict, more than 50,000 people have fled the rebel-held area of Aleppo within the last four days as deadly clashes between Russian-backed Assad forces and rebels continue.
During an emergency meeting in New York on Wednesday, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien urged a safe passage to protect civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo before “it becomes one giant graveyard.”