NEW YORK - Efforts to broker a cease-fire in Syria are under way in the German city of Munich, where Western powers are hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough despite a concerted and increased Russian military effort to pursue a military solution to the conflict there.
Targeting rebel groups fighting for the ouster of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russian forces continued to broaden their air campaign this week, making gains in the country's north and threatening to circle Aleppo, Syria's largest city. A coalition of Russian, Iranian and Assad forces conducted a series of operations north, east and south of the city that appear to set conditions for a siege of the city.
A besieged Aleppo would create an acute humanitarian crisis on a scale greater than any yet seen in the five-year civil war, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned on Thursday in a statement, issuing his "utmost alarm" as the military operation continued to unfold.
"The warring parties in Syria are constantly sinking to new depths," Zeid said. "Women and children, the elderly, the wounded and sick, the people with disabilities are being used as bargaining chips and cannon fodder."