DAMASCUS: US President Barack Obama said he was “not optimistic” about the future of Syria because the UN warned that the time would pass to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo that was Beaten for nearly a week.
Government forces launched a fierce attack on Tuesday to recover eastern Aleppo, killing 115 civilians to date. In new battles Sunday, at least eight children died when rebel rockets struck their school in the government-controlled west.
Obama warned that the second city in Syria was likely to fall, and that Russian and Iranian support for leader Bashar al-Assad made the situation untenable for the opposition.
“I am not optimistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” he said at a summit of Pacific leaders in Lima.
“Once Russia and Iran took the decision to support Assad in a brutal air campaign … it was very difficult to see a way even a moderate opposition formed and engaged could hold its position for long periods.
Obama on Sunday earlier called for greater efforts to end the violence when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit.
But in Damascus, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was rejected on a proposal for a truce that would allow the opposition to administer the east of the city.
“We run out of time, we run against time,” Mistura said after meeting with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
Muallem said he had rejected the proposal, under which the jihadist forces would leave and the government would recognize the administration of the opposition in the east that was bombed by air strikes, cannon bombs, artillery.
“How is it possible for the UN to reward terrorists?” He asked.
Aid agencies fear that instead of a humanitarian or political initiative, there will be “an acceleration of military activities” in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere, Mistura told reporters.
“At Christmas, because of the military intensification, you will have the virtual collapse of what remains to the east of Aleppo, you may have 200,000 people moving to Turkey, it would be a humanitarian catastrophe” .
On Sunday, rebels reacted with a rocket barrage in government-owned western Aleppo, media reports said, hitting a primary school and killing at least eight children.
Syrian television showed bloody and weeping children treated at the hospital, and an AFP reporter saw students being rushed from school after the attack.
Israeli army forces opened the way in the Massaken Hanano area in the northeast of the city, causing violent clashes, said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
He also reported heavy fighting as the army sought to gain ground in two eastern neighborhoods.
The British monitoring group said at least 19 civilians, including five children, were killed on Sunday in the east. This brought to 115 the number of civilians killed since the bombing resumed.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the indiscriminate bombing, claiming that he had killed and maimed civilians, destroyed schools and left the east of the city without operating hospitals.
“The Secretary-General reminds all parties to the conflict that targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure is a war crime,” his office said in a statement.
“Those responsible for these atrocities and others in Syria, wherever and whenever they are, must one day be accounted for.”
The regime’s offensive on eastern Aleppo forced hospitals and schools to close down and destroy the facilities for rescuers in difficulty.
The bombings destroyed one of the last hospitals on Friday, and staff also had to evacuate the region’s only children’s hospital because of repeated attacks.
Russia, which intervened militarily last year, says it is not involved in the current assault on Aleppo and instead concentrates its firepower on opposition and jihadist forces in neighboring province Of Idlib.
But Damascus and its allies have made it clear that they want the rebels expelled from the east of Aleppo, which fell out of control of the regime in mid-2012.
More than 250,000 people remain east of Aleppo, which has been closed since government forces surrounded it in mid-July. No aid has entered the East since then, and the siege has created shortages of food and fuel.