PARIS (Reuters) - The president of the Aleppo local council on Wednesday pleaded that a Syrian government assault on eastern Aleppo be halted to create a safe corridor for civilians to leave the besieged city.
“The civilians are calling for the world to help. In the name of humanity let the civilians leave the city. Help the civilians! Protect the civilians!,” said Brita Hagi Hasan, speaking at a news conference held with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
He called for the immediate establishment of safe corridors for potentially some 250,000 civilians to leave the city.
The Syrian army and its allies announced the capture of a large swathe of eastern Aleppo from rebels earlier this week, in an attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the Syrian government had detained hundreds of people forced to flee rebel-held areas of east Aleppo by the attack.
Hasan, who has been unable to return to Aleppo since leaving during the summer, said dozens of civilians had been killed on Wednesday after barrel bombs dropped by government forces. He added that reprisals were taking place in areas of eastern Aleppo taken from rebels.
“The regime is occupying some (new) areas of Aleppo. We have documented evidence, proof of executions and reprisals,” he said, adding that men aged under 40 were in particular being targeted.
France, a backer of the anti-Assad opposition, has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council later on Wednesday and Foreign Minister Ayrault said the international community could not turn a blind eye to “the massacres.”
“Our priority first is to protect the civilian population and have some concrete measures in place,” said Ayrault.
“We shall see what the members of the Security Council can do to save lives. Everyone is against the wall, but we can’t look the other way,” he added.
Previous attempts by the United States and Russia to broker a lasting ceasefire in the Syrian conflict have failed.
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Brian Love