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UN human rights chief calls Aleppo a ‘slaughterhouse’

An aerial view of Aleppo.Abdalrhman Ismail/REUTERS

BEIRUT — The U.N. humanitarian aid agency said planned medical evacuations from the Syrian city of Aleppo have not begun as planned because of a lack of security assurances from the warring sides.

OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke declined to specify who was responsible for the breakdown in the plans on Friday. The evacuations were announced a day earlier with great hopes by U.N. officials.

Laerke only noted an ‘‘astronomically difficult situation.’’

He said that the evacuations couldn’t begin ‘‘because the necessary conditions were not in place to ensure safe, secure and voluntary’’ movement of people.

On Thursday, U.N. humanitarian aid official Jan Egeland said the U.N. had received the ‘‘green lights’’ for the evacuations from Syria’s government, armed opposition groups and Russia, which announced a pause in fighting in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.


Earlier Friday, the U.N. human rights chief said Aleppo is ‘‘a slaughterhouse’’ and urged the Human Rights Council to set aside ‘‘political disagreements’’ to focus on suffering civilians.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein delivered the stark remarks in an address by videoconference to the 47-member U.N.-backed rights body as it opened a special session on Aleppo called by Britain and others over the crisis in the city.

Zeid, a Jordanian prince, said rights violations and abuses in Syria, in rebel-held eastern Aleppo and beyond ‘‘constitute crimes of historic proportions.’’

He said the ‘‘collective failure of the international community to protect civilians and halt this bloodshed should haunt every one of us.’’

The council was expected to vote later in the day on a resolution that would call for increased monitoring of crimes in Aleppo.