Red Cross: 50 thousand civilians flee battle for Aleppo

The escalation of the conflict has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. Much of the city is without water. The government army blocks supply routes to areas under siege, "enormous pressure" on civilians. MSF: health system near "total collapse". Kurdish fighters wrestle a military air base from militia.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The escalation of fighting in the province of Aleppo, in northern Syria, has so far caused the flight of at least 50 thousand people. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), warns that the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating; much of the city is now without water.

 As explained to AsiaNews yesterday by the Apostolic Vicar of the Latins, Mons. Georges Abou Khazen, the water shortage is the work of the Islamic State (IS) which controls the plant that provides water to the city.

Recently the government army - backed by Russian air strikes - launched a campaign in the north of the country, to regain the territories in the hands of rebel opposition groups and jihadist militias. Among these there is also the area east of Aleppo, for three years under the control of the front fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

Most of these tens of thousands of refugees are heading due north, pressing on the border between Syria and Turkey in order to find shelter across the border. In a statement released by the ICRC it shows that the regular army has cut off supply routes to areas under siege, leaving civilians under "enormous pressure."

To make matters worse there is also the lowering of the temperature, the scarcity of food, water and shelter. The head of ICRC in Syria, Marianne Gasser, says "people are trying to survive in conditions of extreme insecurity."

For Doctors Without Borders (MSF) fighting in the area, particularly in Azaz (the Turkish border) will lead to the certain "collapse" of the health system. The risk is that people, especially the elderly, women and children are forced to live outdoors, in cold weather "for several days if not more."

Experts believe that should the army lay siege to the rebel held Aleppo region, up to 300 thousand people could find themselves without food, water and supplies. Since the beginning of the month at least 500 people were killed in the area, while the desire for peace and dialogue is mounting among  the civilian population (and Syrian fighters) according to the apostolic vicar,.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces on the ground, supported by Arab rebel groups, have wrested - always in the province of Aleppo - an aerial base of strategic importance until now in the hands of Islamic extremists.  The protection of the people Units (YPG, Kurdish militias) and their allies ousted  the jihadists and other rebel groups from the city and the nearby air base in Minnigh, north of Aleppo.

The military victory is the result of intense days of fighting, during which the Kurds liberated a series of villages. "With the defeat of Minnigh - said Rami Abdel Rahmane, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Islamic extremist fighters have lost the only military airport that was still under their control in the province of Aleppo".