Aid convoys head to besieged Syrian areas

January 12, 2016 7:21 am 

DAMASCUS, Jan. 11 — Aid convoys are heading simultaneously on Monday toward a rebel-held town north of the capital Damascus and two government-controlled towns surrounded by rebels in northern Syria, state media and activists said.

State news agency SANA said the relief aid is being delivered by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under United Nations supervision.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing activists on the ground inside Syria, said as many as 70 trucks with food and medical supplies are moving toward Kafraya and Foa, two pro-government towns under rebel siege, and Madaya, a rebel-held area surrounded by government troops for nearly six months.

As many as 40,000 civilians and 200 rebels are reportedly trapped in Madaya. The government is trying to push the rebels there to ease their siege on and allow aid into the two Shiite towns, Kafraya and Foa.

The entry of aid convoys to Madaya was conditioned to the rebels' allowing humanitarian assistance into Kafraya and Foa.

Much of Idlib province is under the control of the Jaish al-Fateh rebel group, except for Kafraya and Foa, which has been under siege since March 2015. More than 600 people in the two towns have been killed in rebel attacks.

In recent weeks, the rebels in the city of Zabadani, which is adjacent to Madaya, reached a deal with the government to evacuate from the city. Dozens of wounded rebels were allowed to leave in December amid talks that the government would loosen its siege on Zabadani.

Recently, photos showing famished people from Madaya were published online by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but the government rejected those images as "largely fake" and being planned by the opposition to demonize the Syrian government.

The government said aid convoys had been allowed into Madaya two months ago, accusing rebels of seizing the supplies and selling them to locals at very high prices.

Muhammad Abu al-Qassem, a Syrian opposition figure, told Xinhua that as the result of a government siege, Madaya has been suffering from a severe shortage of medical supplies and food since August 2015, causing the spread of diseases and hunger.

Some had to resort to eating tree leafs, stray cats and dogs and even garbage as prices of basic food items shot up to exorbitant levels — an equivalent of about USD155 for one kilogram of white wheat and USD120 for one kilogram of rice, Abu al-Qassem said. (PNA/Xinhua)

BNB/SSC

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