The United Nations has suspended its humanitarian task force in Syria amid frustration over intensified fighting in the country’s civil war.
The decision was announced on Thursday as a haunting photo of a young boy rescued from beneath rubble of his home after a devastating air strike in Aleppo provoked outrage around the world.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, stopped a meeting on humanitarian access after just eight minutes, saying it made “no sense” to plan aid deliveries when they would not be let into besieged areas.
Speaking in Geneva, he said convoys had not been able to reach surrounded towns and cities throughout August.
“And why? Because of one thing: Fighting,” he added. “I decided to use my privilege as chair to declare that there was no sense to have a humanitarian meeting today unless we got some action on the humanitarian side in Syria.
“What we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counteroffensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, airstrikes, suicide bombers.”
Mr de Mistura said the humanitarian task force would be suspended until next week, in the hope of sending a signal to parties in the conflict and their allies, including Russia, the US and Iran.
“I insist, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, to have a 48-hour pause in Aleppo,” Mr de Mistura said, calling for a “gesture of humanity from both sides”.
“That would require some heavy lifting not only by the two co-chairs (Russia and the US) but also those who have influence on the ground.”
Aleppo city, which is divided between regime and rebel control, has been at the epicentre of continued battles and bombing despite successive attempts at ceasefires.
Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his Russian allies say they are targeting “terrorists” but humanitarian groups have reported hundreds of civilian deaths.
Opposition activists released haunting footage showing a young boy rescued from the rubble in the aftermath of a devastating air strike on rebel-held areas on Wednesday.
The image of the stunned and weary looking child, sitting in an orange chair inside an ambulance covered in dust and blood, was being shared around the world as an illustration of the horrors ravaging Aleppo.
A doctor in Aleppo identified the boy as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was brought to the hospital known as “M10” overnight following strike on the rebel-held Qaterji district.
He suffered head wounds, but no brain injuries, and was later discharged. At least eight victims, including five children, were reportedly killed in the bombing.
Omran was rescued along with his three siblings, aged one, six and 11, along with his mother and father from the rubble of their destroyed block of flats.
Doctors in Aleppo use code names for hospitals, which they say have been systematically targeted by government air strikes, leaving patients too frightened to seek treatment.
Russia has proposed daily three-hour ceasefires in Aleppo, although no significant pause in air strikes is evident, and fighting continues on the ground as a coalition of Islamist militants attempt to open up a corridor out of besieged areas of the city.
Air strikes have also been reported on rebel-held areas of Idlib, Homs and Deir ez-Zor provinces, as well as near Damascus.
In north-eastern Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have claimed recent victories pushing back Isis fighters near the Turkish border.
The Kurdish-led military alliance recently drove militants out of their former stronghold of Manbij and are continuing to push towards other cities held by the so-called Islamic State.