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Latest On Aleppo After Doctors' Open Letter To Obama


This week, a group of 15 doctors in Aleppo, some of the last who've stayed to serve 300,000 people in the rebel-held area of the city, sent a letter to President Obama pleading for help. They said there have been 42 attacks on medical facilities just last month and that newborn babies suffocated to death after a blast cut the oxygen supply to incubators. The Assad regime and Russian allies are fighting rebel forces in this divided city, where there is no running water for drinking or for sanitation.

Dr. Osama Abo El Ezz is a Syrian surgeon. He's been out of Aleppo for about a month but is on his way back. He joins us from just over the Syrian border in Turkey. Thanks very much for being with us.

OSAMA ABO EL EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

SUHAIL AHMAD: I thank you on my side for your continuous contact with me.

SIMON: You are in contact with people who are still in Aleppo. What's life like there?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: In fact, situations in Aleppo are going in a very tragic manner. There are different kinds of bombing and attacks both by the insurgents and the governmental forces. Unfortunately, these bombings and attacks do not exclude any site. They bomb all the civilian and - institutions. On daily basis, we receive scores of martyrs and hundreds of injured people who are being brought to the medical institutions. There's a terrible lack of medical services and supplies, which is very necessary for people to get along. During the last siege, there was a terrible lack of all kinds of equipment - food, water, medical supplies and everything.

SIMON: When there's no water in a town, often it's teenagers and children who run out into the streets to get water wherever it's available as relief supplies. And, of course, then they often get injured. Has that happened in Aleppo?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: Yeah, this - what you have just said is totally correct, and it's happening in Aleppo. There's no running pure water in the water network, and that's due to the fact that the regime is intentionally attacking the infrastructures for water supplies. Due to this fact, people are depending on well water. This kind of water might be contaminated.

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: I have seen long queues of kids standing there to get a little amount of water. This will expose them to extreme danger. I personally have encountered a number of kids who were either killed or terribly injured as they were waiting to get some water.

SIMON: Now, doctor, you are not among the 15 doctors who signed this letter to President Obama because you happened to be out of Aleppo. Are you familiar with the letter?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: Yes. I was keeping contact with my friends, and I knew about this letter and about the process of writing the letter and the people who signed it.

SIMON: What kind of help would you like from the United States?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: In fact, in this letter we were not merely asking for assistance. What we want is some - a stance, a clear stance, the will to do the change. We know very well that the American administration, they know all the realities on the ground. They know everything. But unfortunately, they are lacking the real will to do something. We do believe that America is a participant just like Russia and the other people who are doing all these atrocities simply because they are not doing what they have to do to put an end for this.

SIMON: Well, what would that be? What would you have the United States do?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: For the last four years, we have been exposed on daily basis for all these kinds of bombings and attacks. It's a genocide for us, and nobody is interfering.

SIMON: Nobody's stopping them.

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: We have always been appealing to the United States and the powers in the world to put an end and to make a safe haven - a non-fly zone, for example - for these areas in order to protect the people, but nobody is listening.

SIMON: Why are you going back?

EZZ: (Foreign language spoken).

AHMAD: I will never do like the United States administration is doing. I will do all the things that I can in order to help my people and my country. Those are innocent people who are losing their lives on daily basis, and I will do my utmost to stand at their side, no matter even if I will lose my life.

SIMON: Dr. Osama Abo El Ezz is a surgeon, and he's coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society. Our translator was Suhail Ahmad. Doctor, thanks very much for being with us. Shukraan.

EZZ: Shukraan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.