A wounded Syrian woman walks with her children following airstrikes on a rebel area of the war-torn northern city of Aleppo, yesterday.
London: The UN has launched its biggest appeal yet for humanitarian aid to Syria after exhausting funds raised for 2013, with a warning that nearly three-quarters of the country’s population will need humanitarian support next year.
The global body is aiming to raise a total of $6.5bn for Syria alone — 50 percent more than the $4bn target it set during its last appeal in June, which was only 60 percent funded.
Already, the UN estimates that close to half of Syria’s population has been displaced, while the World Food Programme says a similar number need “urgent, life saving food assistance”. Former UK foreign secretary David Milliband now President of the International Rescue Committee, said large parts of the Syrian population were threatened by starvation.
The staggering scale of suffering has risen constantly throughout the past two years as war has taken hold across Syria, its impact reverberating widely across the region.
More than 2.3 million refugees have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Kurdish north of Iraq, where many have struggled to find shelter, heating and food as winter has taken hold.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the ever-deteriorating situation was “one of the biggest crises in modern times”. She added that Syrian refugees “think the world has forgotten about them”. Milliband described the conflict as “the defining humanitarian crisis of this century so far”. After 33 months of ever-increasing savagery, there is no end in sight to the war, which poses a serious risk to the unitary boundaries of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and conitues to raise sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
Medical agencies also complain of chronically limited access to war-torn parts of the country, blaming both regime forces and opposition groups for preventing deliveries of medicines and in some cases hijacking convoys.
More than 125,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which has descended into a series of stalemates in which neither side can make meaningful advances. Daily death tolls across Syria have persistently hovered near 100 or more for much of the past year, making the conflict more deadly than at any point during the height the insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.
Seventy-six people were killed in Syria’s second city of Aleppo yesterday morning after Syrian air force helicopters dropped improvised explosives, known as barrel bombs, on three opposition neighbourhoods. Activists reported that 26 of those killed were children.
Opposition groups claimed that more than 20-such bombs were dropped on the east of the city in the early hours, in the most intense blitz for many months. Aleppo and other parts of the north have also been regularly hit by medium range ballistic missiles, including scuds, fired from nearby Damascus.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said it was “one of the heaviest tolls from air raids since the beginning of the war” that flared after a brutal regime crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests that erupted in March 2011.
Explosive-laden barrels were dropped on six rebel-controlled districts in the east, including Sakhur, Ard al-Hamra and Haydariyeh, Abdel Rahman said.
Communities in parts of Aleppo and its surrounds have in recent months increasingly fallen under the sway of jihadist groups, who joined the insurgency to fight the Assad regime, but for different purposes — to transform the war in Syria into the epicentre of Al Qaeda-inspired global jihad.Guardian News/Agencies