”All hospitals in besieged rebel areas have been left out of action in ferocious bombings over the last few days”
Author: Bethan McKernan Beirut
A video of a small boy tearfully asking a medic whether he is going to die after supposedly inhaling chlorine gas has emerged from the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.
Wrapped in a blue blanket and eyes red from gas exposure and crying, he tells a woman what happened to his family. “I was looking at the planes. The planes dropped a barrel. I saw smoke, it was yellow,” he said. Coughing, he takes his oxygen mask off to go on to say he doesn’t know where his siblings are.
“Am I going to die, Miss? Am I going to die?” he asks as she reassures him he everything will be fine.
The video from Thursday night was shot before the underground hospital the little boy was being treated in was hit in another strike, leaving all of the besieged area’s medical facilities offline.
“We are living in a daily horror movie,” Oussai Alali, a nurse at one of east Aleppo’s destroyed hospitals told The Independent, sending pictures of him and other workers sitting in the rubble.
“Imagine what your country would be like without hospitals. People would die. Now imagine there are war planes and bombs. Every day children are dying. Now more will,” he said.
One hospital worker said they estimated 1,700 barrel bombs, missiles and artillery strikes have hit east Aleppo since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad renewed the attack on the area last Tuesday. At least 140 people have died in the fresh campaign so far, the UK-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
SOHR also collaborated on the ground reports that the bombing that had injured the little boy had taken place, but could not confirm whether chlorine gas had been used.
The Syrian government denied that it had used the chemical weapon. Damascus supposedly destroyed its chemical weapon arsenal after international outcry over a 2013 sarin gas attack on a rebel area which killed at least 281 people.
Although both Damascus and its allies in Moscow say that air strikes on east Aleppo – home to around 250,000 people – do not target civilian infrastructure, all of the area’s hospitals and first response centres have been repeatedly targeted, forcing most to move to underground locations or move frequently. The World Health Organisation says that the Syrian regime has attacked health facilities across the country 126 times in 2016 alone.
On Tuesday, Syrian state media reported that government-allied ground troops had made gains on rebel neighbourhoods, adding to the growing sense of despair in east Aleppo since government forces managed to cut off rebel supply lines completely in July.
Rebels have tried several times to break the siege on the east, without success, although they have killed scores of west Aleppo civilians in rocket and mortar attacks.
One European diplomat told AFP it is seemingly a matter of time before the city completely falls to government forces.
“Now, it’s just a question of how long [the rebels] can hold on,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There is nothing to eat, no more hospitals and the bombardment is non-stop. They are under very strong pressure.”
The UN warned last week that the last food parcels had been distributed inside the siege barricades, leaving residents facing starvation this winter if aid is not allowed in soon.
The international body’s envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura was in Damascus over the weekend to discuss a humanitarian plan of action and a possible truce in Aleppo, but both were rejected by the government, which said a ceasefire would “reward terrorists”.