NEW YORK, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The United Nations Security Council said it will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday over the latest increase in violence in Aleppo, where a U.N. official said 16,000 civilians have fled in recent days.
The meeting was called by Britain and France's U.N. ambassadors about two weeks after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime announced it would resume airstrikes targeting besieged, rebel-held eastern Aleppo after a three-week pause.
"The regime and their supporters have decided to accelerate their barbaric military strategy against their own population to retake eastern Aleppo, whatever the cost in terms of human lives," French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters. "In these tragic circumstances, France and its partners cannot remain silent in the face of what could be one of the biggest massacres of civilian populations since WWII."
The United Nations on Tuesday said preliminary reports indicate up to 16,000 people over the past few days have fled eastern Aleppo, where hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped.
"I am extremely concerned about the fate of civilians as a result of the deeply alarming and chilling situation unfolding in Aleppo city," U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien said in a statement. "There are no functioning hospitals left, and official food stocks are practically finished in eastern Aleppo. At the same time, indiscriminate shelling continues on civilian-populated areas and civilian infrastructure in western Aleppo, killing and injuring civilians, and displacing over 20,000 people in recent weeks."
British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said diplomatic solutions were the only means possible to end the crisis in Aleppo. He called on Russia, Syria and Iran, which supports Assad's regime, to "change their policy."
"The future of Aleppo is in the hands of the Assad regime and Russia," Rycroft said. "We urge regime and Russia to stop the bombing, let aid through, call a cease-fire and eventually to get political talks back on track."
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the call for an emergency Security Council session is a "propaganda campaign," adding that Assad's regime is fighting to "take the city back." Churkin criticized the shelling from eastern Aleppo by rebels into the regime-controlled western side of the city.
"It was an untenable situation which could not exist indefinitely," Churkin said. "It was impossible to maintain the situation indefinitely. Now, I suppose, it is leaning in the direction of the government taking back the control of the whole of the city."