Residents of eastern Aleppo will face death and starvation conditions in less than ten days if they do not receive aid and medical supplies, said the head of White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense.
The volunteer group, which was recently named for a Nobel Peace Prize for its work, works in opposition-held territory and has rescued thousands of bombing victims over the course of the war. They say they are running out of basic equipments, such as trucks and gas masks.
“Doctors and the rescue workers in Aleppo are just using what’s left of the equipment after bombardments to do whatever they can do,” said Raed al-Saleh to Reuters news agency.
“You cannot imagine how the situation is.”
Syrian rebels agreed to an aid plan with the U.N. on Thursday but are awaiting an agreement by Russia and the Syrian government.
The situation is made more urgent by the onset of freezing winter conditions in Aleppo. Roughly 275,000 people are currently trapped in eastern Aleppo, and the last food rations were distributed by the U.N. on November 13.
Sales said the lack of surgical supplies have forced Syrian doctors to make gut-wrenching decisions over who lives and dies. He said the White Helmets have lost half of their equipment since the extensive bombing raids began in September.
“They cannot accept everyone … There are not enough materials and not enough doctors,” Saleh said.
“We have consumed all the stock of first aid kits in our centres and we have consumed all our stock of gas masks,” he added.
Jan Egeland, head of the U.N.’s humanitarian task force in Syria, said that while Syrian rebels had expressed written support for a humanitarian aid plan, Russia had only provided verbal support.
“We have written approval in principle by the armed opposition groups of east Aleppo,” Egeland told reporters during a press conference in Geneva on Thursday.
The plan would allow for the delivery of medical supplies and food, a limited number of evacuations, and the sending of medical staff to besieged areas of Aleppo.
“We hope to have a full green light from both the Russian side and Syrian government side”, said Egeland.
Concerning a potential “Plan B”, Engeland said: “In many ways, Plan B is that people starve. And can we allow that to happen? No, we cannot allow that to happen.”
In Turkey and west Aleppo, trucks are ready to perform an ambitious aid operation. Egeland said the U.N. will need 72 hours to prepare the “big, complex and dangerous operation”.
Stephen O’Brien, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief, said earlier this week that conditions in rebel-held areas had gone from “terribly to terrifying” and were “barely survivable by human beings”.
“Let me be clear, we are not just seeing a resumption of violence in Aleppo. This is not business as usual. What has been unleashed on civilians this past week is yet another low in an unrelenting, inhuman onslaught, and it is as heartbreaking as it is not inevitable,” said O’Brien to the U.N, Security Council on Monday.
“These parties to the conflict are – all of them – choosing to do this. It is civilians who pay the price.”
The conflict has been extremely difficult to end and has suffered from diplomatic non-starters between the primary belligerents. In October, talks between the U.S. and Russia disintegrated due to a “lack of seriousness” to ending the conflict on the part of Russia, according to the U.S.
Western governments have pushed for an end to Russian and Iranian support for the Syrian government. After rebels achieved steady territorial gains, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been able to turn the tides of the conflict since September when Russia intervened on behalf of the Syrian government through massive and indiscriminate airstrikes on eastern Aleppo.
Additionally, Assad receives extensive support on the ground from Iran, who have sent both IRGC leaders and Afghan soldiers as support. Its role in the conflict is likely much larger than it officially admits.
Since its outbreak, the Syrian Civil War has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives and displaced millions within and outside of Syria.