Fuel reserve in Syria's rebel-held east Aleppo exhausted: civil defense

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The civil defense in Syria’s rebel-held eastern Aleppo has exhausted its fuel reserve and all fuel remaining in its vehicles and equipment will run out within two days, an official in the organization said.

The civil defense, also known as the White Helmets, is a rescue service that operates in rebel-held areas of Syria. The group draws on ambulance workers and volunteers who dig survivors and the dead out of rubble.

“All the fuel we have has finished,” Ibrahim Abu al-Laith told Reuters. The only fuel left was what remained in the machines and that will not last longer than two days, he added.

“With these attacks, it’s impossible,” Abu al-Laith said. “Today, there are more than 50 people buried under the rubble that we haven’t pulled out.”

Aleppo, pre-war Syria’s biggest city and commercial hub, has been divided for years between the government-controlled west and rebel-held east, which the Syrian army and allied forces started to besiege in the summer.

The war pits President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, against an array of mostly Sunni Muslim rebel groups, some backed by Turkey, Gulf monarchies or the United States.

The Syrian army and its allies announced the capture of a swathe of eastern Aleppo on Monday in a rapid attack that threatens to crush the opposition in its most important urban stronghold.

The advance in recent days, after weeks of Russian and Syrian air strikes, has led several thousand residents of eastern Aleppo to flee shifting front lines.

The Aleppo Civil Defence released a statement on Monday warning of an “imminent humanitarian disaster”. The group said bombardment by the Syrian government had destroyed two of its four centers in rebel-held Aleppo.

“If there’s no response from the international community or humanitarian organizations, the work will be suspended,” Abu al-Laith said. “Things will become very, very miserable.”

“Even if there are no machines, even if there’s no equipment, we will work with our hands.”

Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Mark Heinrich