United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to urgently address the crisis in Aleppo following reports that Syrian forces executed dozens of civilians in the city.
France and Britain requested the meeting scheduled for midday (1700 GMT) as the battle for Syria's second city neared the end, in a turning point for the six-year war.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre called for action to confront "the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century unfolding before our eyes."
"Aleppo is experiencing its darkest days," he told reporters.
"We have credible reports of brutal murders of families, summary executions, including women and children, houses put on fire with people trapped inside, continuing targeting of hospitals and medical staff, and the list goes on and on," he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to brief council members after UN rights officials said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had entered homes and killed civilians inside.
Some civilians managed to flee the advancing forces but others "were reportedly caught and killed on the spot and others were arrested," said a UN spokesman in Geneva.
Delattre said Russia, Assad's ally, "holds the key of an exit strategy, a way out" of the crisis in Aleppo and stressed that Moscow "can't let this happen."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Paris that if the allegations of targeting of civilians were true, they would amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
"An investigation must be opened as soon as possible, carried out by the United Nations," said Ayrault.
Syria's army has taken more than 90 percent of the territory once held by rebels in east Aleppo, after launching an all-out offensive last month to seize control of the entire city.
"What a tragic day for Aleppo," said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
"Even wars have laws, even wars have rules and every single rule, every single law of war has been broken by the regime," he said.