U.S. envoy to U.N. blames and shames Syria, Russia over Aleppo

Story highlights

  • Samantha Power names Syrian commanders, comparing them to infamous brutal rulers like Slobodan Milosevic
  • Her comments come amid the worst shellings since the conflict began in 2011

(CNN)U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power upbraided Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime and Russia for its military actions across Syria and particularly in the war-torn and devastated city of Aleppo, and she publicly named and shamed Syrian commanders for their involvement in deadly assaults and running prisons where torture has been reported..

Power made reference to the recent days of bombings on eastern Aleppo and surrounding countryside, which have left more than 300 people dead, the most intense bombing since the conflict started in 2011. The devastated city is divided between government-controlled areas in the west and rebel positions in the east.
"Think of what you were doing Saturday," she said at a U.N. Security Council briefing on Monday about the humanitarian situation in Syria. "Imagine being subjected to 180 airstrikes while you were doing it. Horrifying video from eastern Aleppo affirms a shocking inhuman barrage on civilian neighborhoods."
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The Syrian regime resumed heavy bombardment over eastern Aleppo on Tuesday after a three-week lull, killing at least 289 people by Saturday, according to the Syrian Civil Defense Force, also called the White Helmets.
Among the latest reported violence: a suspected chemical attack that killed four children and their parents. On Monday, Aleppo withstood another day of all-out war as bombardments in eastern Aleppo left at least 27 people dead and 120 injured on Monday, the White Helmets said.
Power noted that the United States strongly condemned shelling by opposition forces, which has caused more than 60 casualties since November 1. But she focused her ire on the Assad regime and Russia for their "starve, get bombed, or surrender" strategy in eastern Aleppo.
"But, I ask, will Russia condemn even a single airstrike by the Assad regime here in this chamber today -- or any day? Choose any of the hospitals that the Assad regime has destroyed, or any of the schools. Will Russia ever condemn its ally Bashar Al-Assad here at the Council for a single one of these attacks? We have been attending sessions like this one for more than five years. But, despite all of the carnage inflicted by their regime partners, they have uttered not one critical word. Not even one skeptical word," she said.
The assault on Aleppo, she said, was "not an isolated case. It is part of a country-wide strategy. Across Syria, Russia and the Assad regime are waging a campaign that includes sieges, the blocking of humanitarian aid, the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, and the use of barrel bombs."
Other representatives at the meeting slammed the Assad regime and Russia for its actions in Aleppo. Both entities pushed back. Russian envoy Vladimir K. Safronkov, said the "country had been assisting United Nations humanitarian aid and other assistance in Syria, as well as facilitating political efforts."
The Syrian representative, Bashar Ja'afari, said it "allowed civilians in eastern Aleppo to flee and had opened corridors for them to do so."
"The terrorists, however, had retained civilians to use as human shields," Ja'afari said.
According to a transcript of her remarks, the U.S. ambassador named Syrian commanders involved in deadly assaults on "cities, residential areas and civilian infrastructure: Major General Adib Salameh, Brigadier General Adnan Aboud Hilweh, Major General Jawdat Salbi Mawas, Colonel Suhail Hassan, Major General Tahir Hamid Khalil."
She added, "The United States will not let those who have commanded units involved in these actions hide anonymously behind the façade of the Assad regime."
She also named commanders who work at detention facilities where torture has been reported: Major General Jamil Hassan, Brigadier General Abdul Salam Fajr Mahmoud, Brigadier General Ibrahim Ma'la, Colonel Qusai Mihoub, Brigadier General Salah Hamad, Brigadier General Sha'afiq Masa, Major General Rafiq Shihadeh, Hafiz Makhlouf.
"The United States will not forget the cases of the many Syrians who have suffered so much at the hands of individuals like these, and we will continue fighting to hold them accountable for their hateful crimes," she said.
She called for an end to the "merciless attacks" from Russia and Assad's regime.
"Now, I know right now, today, with wind at their backs, these individuals feel impunity. So, though, did Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor, and countless war criminals before them," she said, citing the former leaders of Serbia and Liberia. "Today's atrocities are well-documented, and the civilized world's memories are long."