With fighting intensified around Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, rebels fighting the Syrian government began a new offensive to break an ongoing government-backed siege of the city. The rebels have been led in part by an offshoot of the Nusra Front, which, up until last month, had been aligned with al-Qaeda.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the fighting for Aleppo as, quote, “beyond doubt one of the most devastating urban conflicts in modern times.” The United Nations is warning of a dire humanitarian crisis, as millions are left without water or electricity.
U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said: “The commission is gravely concerned for the safety of civilians, including a reported 100,000 children living in eastern Aleppo city, where violence has reached new heights in recent weeks as asymmetric warfare intensifies over control of armed group-held neighborhoods and their principal remaining supply lines.”
Overall, the death toll in the five-year Syrian conflict has reached close to half a million people. The ongoing war has displaced about half the prewar population, with more than 6 million Syrians displaced inside Syria and nearly 5 million Syrian refugees outside Syria’s borders.
According to the humanitarian group Physicians for Human Rights, there have been more than 370 attacks on 265 medical facilities during the five-year conflict, as well as the deaths of 750 medical personnel.