A Blessing in Hell: Unexploded Bombs in Besieged Aleppo

ALEPPO CITY UPDATE 21/11: Siege Enters 4th Month

A familiar image from east Aleppo- huge destruction in Al Fardous neighbourhood. Author:PIN archive

Since Tuesday 15th November, the besieged neighbourhoods of eastern Aleppo have faced a new and intensified bombing campaign. The brief lull in airstrikes has come to an end and the skies are once again full.

Since last Tuesday, it is estimated that over 500 airstrikes have rained down on the mere 53 square kilometres of east Aleppo. This is in addition to thousands of artillery rounds. In these six days, approximately 300 people have been killed and hundreds more injured.

Dozens of airstrikes have directly hit at least four medical centres during this new bombing campaign. No medical centre in the besieged city remains able to function adequately now. The few medical staff are wholly overwhelmed and medical supplies are predicted to run out in 2–3 weeks.

The approximate 275,000 residents of eastern Aleppo have been living under effective siege since the 7th July. While some emergency supplies were able to enter east Aleppo when the siege was broken briefly in mid-August, stocks of medicine, food and other items essential for survival are in short supply today. The besieged population fear death on at least two fronts. Those who survive the bombs fear they may not survive starvation.

Ibrahim, a White Helmets volunteer in east Aleppo, describes the escalation in violence on the eastern neighbourhoods of the city.

“In the last few weeks the assault on the eastern besieged neighbourhoods has intensified. The killing has reached a horrifying level. During the last few days in particular the bombardment on the city as well as the countryside has been so violent. Warplanes are hitting everywhere and every hour — vacuum and bunker-busting bombs and barrel bombs are being dropped. The airstrikes are becoming more intense and more violent every day. There are dozens of airstrikes per day and hundreds have lost their lives in the last week alone. This puts a huge burden on make-shift hospitals which are already suffering so much. The situation here is made even more catastrophic by the siege which is going to enter its fourth month. ”

As an indication of what the people of east Aleppo come face-to-face with on a daily basis, here is snapshot of an afternoon in Al Fardous neighbourhood. This terrifying image is actually one of a positive result. An unexploded bomb is nothing short of a blessing.

An unexploded bomb in Al Fardous neighbourhood, east Aleppo. Author: PIN archive.

This is what the largely civilian population of East Aleppo must deal with. Bombs bigger than man.

Beyond the bombs, there is the threat of starvation. Families have already reduced the number of daily meals to a single one per day, and share what they can with neighbours and those who have turned to begging.

Munther, a resident of east Aleppo, describes access to essential items in the eastern neighbourhoods today:

“The prices of food items have tripled and reached unaffordable levels. The airstrikes and bombardment increase the suffering; tens of civilians are being killed and injured every day. There is no secure place here because the bombs being used destroy wide areas and whole blocks of flats; they even destroy basements. This week we have witnessed the biggest number of and the most destructive airstrikes. A water station was hit; and even before it was hit, water through the public network was not available. Water from wells is very expensive and in some neighbourhoods not available due to the shortage of diesel to run generators. The situation is becoming more difficult and inhuman by the day.”

Looking ahead, the question of how long fuel will last is also one that deeply troubles the people of Aleppo city. Without fuel, electric generators, bakeries and ambulances cannot function. As winter approaches and temperatures are expected to drop to zero, families living in bombed out skeletons of buildings will seriously struggle to keep warm. Whilst it is unknown how long fuel will last, what it certain is that current supplies will not last the winter.

Stocks of humanitarian supplies inside the city are virtually non-existent now after four months without new aid deliveries. People in Need have distributed all our remaining food kits and flour, and the majority of other NGOs have also exhausted their resources inside the city. While humanitarian actors are ready to deliver aid by the truck load into the city, they remain prevented. No road is open, either for evacuation or for humanitarian supply.

The violence must stop. Civilians must be spared. Humanitarian convoys must be allowed access. We cannot bring an end to this suffering with words.

Eleanor McClelland, PIN Regional Communications and Advocacy Officer Turkey-Syria-Iraq

Sari Haj Jneid, PIN Field Communications Officer in Syria