Justice

What the Aleppo Cease-Fire Means for the Refugee Crisis

December 13th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

The last 48 hours in Aleppo have been some of the most dramatic and bloody of the war in Syria, marked by reports of extrajudicial killings of rebels and civilians as pro-government forces on the ground, including thousands of militiamen from Lebanon and Iraq, and their Russian allies in the air try to seize total control of the city.

Aleppo

On Tuesday, rebels announced they had reached a cease-fire agreement with pro-government forces to evacuate civilians and rebels, CBS News reported, a development that followed reports pro-government forces had executed dozens of civilians in eastern Aleppo. Russian officials also confirmed that all military activity had been temporarily halted. The exact number of civilians remaining in rebel-held parts of Aleppo is uncertain, but United Nations officials say "untold thousands" of civilians remain trapped.

The Syrian government claimed on Monday to have taken control of 99 percent of Aleppo.

The tentative agreement to allow rebels and civilians to flee has been welcomed by human rights organizations, but signals that the refugee crisis created by this war which followed a brutal government crackdown on protests in 2011  will not let up.

syrian refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 11 million Syrians have been displaced since the civil war began; the majority of those refugees are "internally displaced" throughout Syria, while about five million have fled to surrounding countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. An additional one million refugees have applied for asylum in Europe, according to the European University Institute.

In the past two days, Syrians trapped in Aleppo have shared messages on social media, anticipating that they might be killed by pro-government or Russian forces amid escalating conflict. The United Nations reported on Tuesday that 82 civilians — including women and children — were "shot on the spot."

[SAVING FOR ATTN: VIDEO]

UNICEF released a statement Tuesday stating there were at least 100 children trapped in a building under fire in Aleppo. It implored the international community to "stand up for the children of Aleppo and bring their living nightmare to an end." Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director, also voiced concern over reports that pro-government and Russians forces were engaging in "extrajudicial killings of civilians, including children."