Editorial: Israel's moral obligation to help save Aleppo’s civilians

By
December 14, 2016 12:54

More than 100,000 people have fled the rebel enclave in Aleppo to government-held areas and thousands of rebels have surrendered. But thousands of civilians remain trapped.

Syrian refugees are reflected in a puddle as they wait for their turn to enter Macedonia

Syrian refugees are reflected in a puddle as they wait for their turn to enter Macedonia at Greeces border. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Time is running out for the people of Aleppo.

The world must intervene before the worst humanitarian crisis of our time deteriorates even further. Israel, a nation created in the wake of the Holocaust, has a moral obligation to lead diplomatic efforts to stop the murder of civilians caught in the fighting.



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Forces loyal to the Assad regime are on the verge of taking control of Aleppo, the last big urban stronghold of rebel fighters anywhere in the country.

More than 100,000 people have fled the rebel enclave in Aleppo to government-held areas and thousands of rebels have surrendered. But thousands of civilians remain trapped.


Hundreds of activists, aid workers, councilors, rescue workers and doctors who have received support from the West remain in Aleppo.

The White Helmets volunteers who pull the dead and wounded from the rubble after air strikes have given up and requested the immediate evacuation of their fellow workers. Doctors say they can carry out only basic first aid. Aid workers from the Red Cross, operating in areas recently captured by the regime, have found bodies trapped under the rubble and orphans who haven’t eaten for two days. Bread is in short supply.

Civilians and aid workers are reluctant to leave their homes for fear of being killed in the incessant bombing or falling into the hands of militants aligned with the Assad regime.

“Given the terrible record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances, we are of course deeply concerned about the fate of these individuals,” a UN human rights spokesman said this week.

A deal by the UN, the US, Russia, Turkey and others is desperately needed to prevent the massacre of those civilians trapped in Aleppo.

Without a deal, civilian deaths will rapidly mount, as people are squeezed into ever-smaller spaces. Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly said they will continue to bomb Aleppo until rebel forces withdraw.

Aleppo is lost to the rebels. All efforts must now focus on saving civilians and aid workers who remain in the city.

There are no easy answers to the fighting in Syria.

With forces affiliated with al-Qaida, such as the Levant Conquest Front fighting alongside the rebels, it is impossible to differentiate between the good guys and bad. Israel’s position has been to remain completely neutral. Only when attempts are made by Hezbollah to smuggle game-changing military equipment out of Syria into Lebanon, where it could be used against Israel, did the IDF launch preemptive attacks.

But the fate of civilians and aid workers in Aleppo is a moral issue. Regardless of which side you are on, a solution must be found to enable the safe evacuation of those trapped in the ancient city. And Israel – as a moral voice in the region – must take a stand on the matter.

The UN and its institutions must do more than make empty declarations (or focus almost exclusively on human rights abuses purportedly committed by Israel). The UN, together with the US and the EU, must make the horrific situation in Syria a top priority in public discourse and diplomatic efforts.

US President Barack Obama, with only a few weeks left in office, should recognize the plight of Aleppo as his final moral test and stop at nothing to prevent a humanitarian tragedy. If successful, the evacuation of Aleppo can serve as a model for evacuating other areas of Syria.

As a people who suffered the Holocaust, we should see it as our moral imperative to protect the lives of Syrian civilians, including the thousands of innocent children.

There are no easy answers in the ongoing conflict.

But before time runs out, the innocent – civilians and aid workers trapped in the fighting – must be saved.
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