They stand tall and proud in front of a crumbling skyline, the exhaustion of their cause written on their faces.
Some wear jeans and T-shirts and sneakers. Others wear the uniforms of their trades: hospital scrubs, or a hard hat. The men hold Syrian opposition flags and a woman clutches a baby.
They are a coalition of activists – doctors, educators and civil servants – from Aleppo’s beleaguered rebel-held areas.
In a rare video message in English, they issue a desperate plea to the international community – specifically, the US-led coalition – to airdrop humanitarian aid.
An English-speaking Syrian doctor known as Dr. Hamza al-Khatib stands in the middle of the group, reading aloud from a piece of paper.
He runs through a grim accounting of Aleppo’s misery, based on numbers from this coalition of activists:
- 500,000 people killed in Syria six years, he says.
- At least 271,536 people trapped inside rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he says, citing Aleppo City Council.
- At least 2,300 documented strikes in the last 23 days, including airstrikes, explosive barrels, artillery, cluster bombs, bunker-busters, bombs loaded with chlorine gas.
- 4 hospitals struck in the last week, along with 6 schools, the civil defense headquarters and 2 bakeries.
CNN cannot independently verify the number of people killed in Syria, but the United Nations puts the figure at around 400,000.
The video comes as Aleppo’s death toll continues to rise. At least 59 civilians were killed there on Thursday, according to Syria’s Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets. The organization said the dead include a 55-year-old woman who was killed by a chemical attack involving chlorine.
Al-Khatib accuses Russian and Syrian regime air forces of intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure to “break people’s will,” though Russia has denied targeting civilian infrastructure.
Starving, dying people with little to no access to medical care are afraid to go to hospitals, he says, lest they became the victims of the latest bombing.
The past six years have been a “slow-motion train wreck,” leaving him and his colleagues wondering what good is the United Nations, he says. Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that Syria “may be recorded as one of the failures of the United Nations.”
Al-Khatib appeals to the international community to push for the following:
- Ground Bashar al-Assad’s air force or use diplomatic leverage to end Russian and Syrian bombardment of the city.
- Open a demilitarized humanitarian corridor under the United Nations’ control for food, fuel, medicine and infrastructure supplies for water stations, electricity, hospitals, schools and civil defense.
- If neither is possible, airdrop humanitarian aid using the US-led coalition’s warplanes in Syria.
The international community holds Aleppo’s fate in its hands, he says. Will it heed their cry?