Bombing children unacceptable, says world churches body, urging cessation of Aleppo airstrikes

(Photo: © UNHCR)Syrian women and children recently displaced from East Aleppo take shelter at the nearby Al-Mahalij industrial zone in late 2016.

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit is urging an immediate cessation of airstrikes and bombardments on Aleppo due to the "alarming" situation for thousands of civilians trapped in the part of the city under aerial onslaught.

The conflict in Aleppo, Syria, has intensified in recent months, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the city.

"It is unacceptable that children should become victims in this way," said Tveit in a statement released Dec. 5 by the WCC.

"The alarming situation of the thousands of civilians trapped in Aleppo amidst the escalating violence is of deep concern to us. As Churches we call for full respect for the dignity of all human beings created in the image of God."

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His call came Dec. 5, the same day that UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, said it remains extremely concerned for the civilian population. With thousands fleeing the eastern part of the city, our focus has turned to the rapidly growing shelter needs.

Many of those who have fled eastern districts are now in unfinished or partly-destroyed buildings said the UNHCR. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding are already challenges in a congested city with few open spaces.

"We have been providing tents, shelter kits and sealing-off kits to meet the most urgent needs and improve living conditions. We are also working with partners to quickly rehabilitate structures as temperatures drop," said the refugee agency.

"Food, water, medical care and other items are being distributed by UNHCR and partners alongside winter clothing and other relief items. We have emergency supplies of non-food items, among them blankets and tents, for 45,000 people in western Aleppo. These can be replenished at short notice."

'END HOSTILITIES'

"We are still unable to reach the many thousands without food, water and shelter in eastern Aleppo as temperatures drop and fighting rages. With its U.N. partners, UNHCR continues to call for an end to the hostilities to allow safe passage out, and humanitarian assistance to be delivered," said the U.N. agency.

In his stamen Tveit said, "Hunger, the threat to life, the destruction of homes, the lack of security and medical care, and the inability for people to access help is forcing communities to endure ever greater suffering.

"We call on the UN Security Council to put aside whatever political agenda it may have, and actually focus on the safety and security of civilians in Syria."

"No other interest should have a higher priority than to protect the lives of the thousands of people at stake," said Tveit.

"The UN Security Council should prioritize the humanitarian imperative and implement relevant UN resolutions that oblige all parties to the conflict to respect and protect all civilians and civilian infrastructure; allow for safe, immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access; and put an end to brutal sieges of so many areas in Syria."

The WCC call also coincided with an announcement by U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that it was launching an aid appeal noting that the world is facing a humanitarian crisis that will require a record $22.2 billion in funding for 2017 to support nearly 93 million of the most vulnerable and marginalized people.

"The scale of humanitarian crises today is greater than at any time since the United Nations was founded," said U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien, launching the Global Humanitarian Overview 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a press release from OCHA.

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