Hundreds of men from eastern Aleppo have gone missing after leaving opposition-held areas, the United Nations’ human rights office said today, voicing deep concern that government forces could be mistreating them.
UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville also said there were reports that two rebel militias – including Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front – had during the last two weeks abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians in the city who had asked armed groups to leave their neighbourhoods.
These reports have not been confirmed, and have instead been denied by various opposition factions fighting the Assad regime in eastern Aleppo.
Syrian government forces pressed on with their offensive in Aleppo last night and into this morning with ground fighting supported by airstrikes, Reuters witnesses, opposition factions and a monitoring group said, as part of a push to retake all of the city’s besieged opposition-held east.
“As pro-government forces have advanced from the north into eastern Aleppo, there have been allegations of reprisals against civilians who are perceived to have supported armed opposition groups, as well as reports that men were being separated from women and children,” Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
“We have received very worrying allegations that hundreds of men have gone missing after crossing into government-controlled areas,” Colville continued.
The families of the men, who are mainly between 30 and 50 years old, had not heard from them since they fled a week to 10 days ago, he said.
“Given the [Assad regime’s] terrible record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances, we are of course deeply concerned about the fate of these individuals,” Colville said. “One has to ring some alarm bells.”
“It could mean that some have been killed, it could mean they have been arbitrarily detained and taken somewhere, we just don’t know.”
He said tens of thousands had fled the shrinking opposition-held areas of the city, but that at least 100,000 civilians were believed to remain.