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In Syria's Aleppo, cemeteries no longer have room for the dead

A Syrian woman prays over the grave of her son at a cemetery in the rebel-held town of Douma on September 12, 2016
Sameer Al-Doumy (AFP)
At least 311 civilians, including 42 children killed in Aleppo since regime offensive began November 15

Fierce fighting and continued bombardment of Syria's Aleppo has left so many dead that the city's cemeteries have become full, Britain's Sky News reports.

President Bashar al-Assad's army is nearly three weeks into an operation to recapture all of Syria's second city, divided between regime and rebel forces since 2012.

Since the beginning of the regime offensive on November 15, pounding rebel-held neighborhoods with air strikes, barrel bomb attacks and artillery fire, at least 311 civilians, including 42 children have been killed according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a monitor.

Rebel fire on the government-held west of Aleppo has killed 69 civilians, including 28 children, in the same period, the monitor says.

Gasoline shortages mean that rescue services and ambulances must be selective about their missions, and many of the dead don’t make even make it to the morgue, with families opting to bury loved ones in their back yards instead.


“We can’t keep up,” Ibrahim Abu Laith, a volunteer with the White Helmets civil defence group told the Observatory. “We’re having to choose who we find and who we don’t.”

“When you hear someone alive but reach them dead, that is the hardest part,” he adds.

The United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien warned an emergency session of the UN security council last week that the city was becoming "one giant graveyard."

“For the sake of humanity, we call on, we plead, with the parties, and those with influence, to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard,” he said.

Head of the local forensic authority, Mohammed Abu Jaafar told Sky News that he too has run out of room to store bodies.

George Ourfalian (AFP)

"We have no more room. I have 20 to 25 bodies from different parts of Aleppo that we don't know where to bury," Jaafar said, adding "Even if I were to consider mass burials, I don't have the machines to do the digging."

According to Sky News, the destruction of Aleppo's hospitals and medical facilities have forced doctors to open secret underground clinics, which risk giving away their location if they are unable to find a place to send the bodies of wounded who have died and are forced to place them outside.

On Sunday, heavy fighting was underway in the Myessar district and elsewhere on the outskirts of newly recaptured neighborhoods in the east.

The government advance has prompted an exodus of civilians, with some fleeing south to remaining rebel-held territory and up to 50,000 heading to areas controlled by the government or Kurdish forces.

Suspected Russian raids kill 46 across Syria's Idlib

At least 46 people were killed in suspected Russian air strikes on several areas of Idlib province in northwest Syria on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The monitor said those killed in the strikes, on three locations in the province, were mostly civilians.

Mohamed al-Bakour (AFP)

The Observatory says it determines whose planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

The toll included 26 civilians, among them three children, killed in the town of Kafr Nabal, and another 18 people who were killed in the town of Maaret al-Numan.

In Kafr Nabal, an eyewitness told AFP that warplanes carried out several strikes.

"Six strikes hit houses and a crowded local market," Hossam Hosber said.

In Maaret al-Numan, an AFP photographer saw local residents and White Helmets rescue workers trying to reach survivors in the rubble at a vegetable market hit in a strike.

The Observatory said most of those killed in Maaret al-Numan were civilians, but that the identities of four of the dead were still being confirmed.

Mohamed al-Bakour (AFP)

The monitor also reported two additional deaths, one in an earlier strike on Maaret al-Numan and another in Al-Naqir, also in Idlib.

And it said six civilians, four of them children, had been killed in a government barrel bomb attack on the town of Al-Tamanah in the south of Idlib.

Russia began a military intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government in September 2015, and says it is targeting "terrorists".

It has dismissed reports of civilian casualties in its strikes and says it only target militants.

In November, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces had begun a "major operation" targeting Idlib and Homs provinces.

Idlib province is mostly controlled by a powerful rebel alliance known as the Army of Conquest, which groups Islamist factions with jihadists of Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.

Most of Homs province is controlled by the Syrian government, but small parts of the countryside in the region are held by a range of rebel groups.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's conflict began in March 2011.

(Staff with agencies)


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