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Qatar scraps National Day festivities over Aleppo and launches fundraiser

Qatar's ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said the people of Aleppo were facing 'genocide'
Qatar's Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani speaks during the 9th Edition Global Governance conference with Qatari leaders and representatives of the Syrian opposition in the capital Doha (AFP)

Qatar's ruler announced on Wednesday that the Gulf state will call off its National Day celebrations next week out of solidarity with the people of Syria's war-ravaged city of Aleppo.

The decision to scrap the celebrations came directly from the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in a statement put out through state media.

It was taken "in solidarity with our people in the city of Aleppo, who are subjected to the worst kind of repression and torture, displacement and genocide", said the Qatar News Agency.

Qatar's national day falls on 18 December, to mark the founding of the state in 1878.

The celebrations usually involve a parade in the centre of the capital Doha, dancing and a huge fireworks display.

The final of the 2022 football World Cup to be hosted by Qatar will be played on 18 December.

Qatar has provided arms to opposition groups during Syria's five-year conflict and houses a Syrian opposition "embassy" in Doha.

Foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on Tuesday that the war in Syria would not end if the government recaptured the country's second city Aleppo.

Nizar al-Haraki, ambassador of the Syrian opposition coalition in Doha, told AFP that the decision to cancel the celebrations was "a dignified humanitarian gesture and a strong and positive message of solidarity".

He added that he had recently spent two days in Aleppo.

A fundraiser launched to aid Aleppo residents, launched on Sunday, has already raised more than $67m according to Doha News.

The campaign will last until 20 December and is organised by five of Qatar's leading charitable organisations.

According to Tamer Hasabo, marketing coordinator of the Afif Charity, the money collected will go toward winter clothes, food baskets, shelter and healthcare.

“This is not like any fundraiser because unlike others that usually take place, this one is considered an urgent relief," he told Doha News.

"Aleppo in this case is crying out for help and we are trying to meet their needs and heed their call."