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World Leaders Plead for Ceasefire in Aleppo as Syrian Rebels Lose Grip

Syrian children displaced with their families from eastern Aleppo play in the village of Jibreen south of Aleppo, Syria, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The leaders of six Western countries including the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, called for an immediate ceasefire in Aleppo, Syria, today to allow humanitarian assistance to reach civilian victims of bombing there.

The nations issued a joint statement condemning the “daily bombings and artillery attacks” that have targeted hospitals and schools “in an attempt to wear people down” and blamed the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia for “humanitarian disaster.”

“The images of dying children are heartbreaking,” read the statement, which was signed by the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada and released by the White House today.

“A humanitarian disaster is taking place before our very eyes. Some 200,000 civilians, including many children, in eastern Aleppo are cut off from food and medicine supplies,” the letter read.

Read More: Update: Bana Alabed, 7-Year-Old Girl Tweeting From Aleppo, Is 'Safe'

The letter also stated that the rebel forces, backed by the US and other Western countries, had agreed to a United Nations four-point plan to allow civilians to escape and get medical aid to those in need inside Aleppo, but Syria had not yet agreed. The letter urged Russia and Iran to convince Syria to agree to the plan.

"A humanitarian disaster is taking place before our very eyes."

Despite previous ceasefires between the two sides and calls for an end to the fighting, the war in Aleppo has only gotten worse in recent months. Today’s joint statement comes amid news that the rebels have nearly completely evacuated the “Old Aleppo” portion of the city, which means they now hold only about a quarter of eastern Aleppo, according to CNN.

The Syrian army, backed by aerial bombing, pushed into rebel-held areas over the past week, according to the CNN report.

Read More: Stunning Drone Footage Show Massive Destruction of Aleppo

There are approximately 275,000 civilians now trapped in the rebel-held portion without access to food, fuel, or medical supplies, according to the CNN and Reuters.

Nearly half of the people stuck in Eastern Aleppo are children, the UN has reported. Officials warned that there will be mass starvation if the situation doesn’t change soon.

Anti-government activists in east Aleppo told The New York Times this week that amid the push by Syrian forces, they believed they would soon be killed or arrested.

The regime has said it is aiming to “liberate” all of Aleppo from the rebels, and Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov warned Tuesday that anyone who remains in rebel-held areas of the city will be considered terrorists and “destroyed,” the Times reported.

The letter from the US and its allies also warned Assad and Russia of the possibility of a war crimes investigation.

“We urge all parties in Syria to adhere to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions,” the statement read. “There must not be impunity for those responsible.”

The letter also threatened “additional restrictive measures” against those who act on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Read More: UN Calls Bombing of Syria 'Crimes of Historic Proportions'

The UN has acknowledged that war crimes may have occurred in Syria, where a humanitarian convoy was attacked earlier this year while trying to bring aid to civilian victims in the city.