UN says almost 1 million civilians in Syria live under siege

Men salvage belongings from a site hit yesterday by an airstrike in the rebel-held town of Dael, in Deraa Governorate, Syria November 20, 2016.REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir
Men salvage belongings from a site hit yesterday by an airstrike in the rebel-held town of Dael, in Deraa Governorate, Syria November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

Deutsche Welle – The UN under-secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that 974,080 people were currently living under siege in Syria. That number stood at just under 487,000 six months ago.

Since July, 275,000 more people have reportedly come under siege in eastern Aleppo alone, where government forces have been making advances against rebels. In eastern Aleppo, O’Brien said, humanitarian conditions had worsened “from terrible to terrifying and now barely survivable.”

New areas that have reportedly come under siege in the past weeks and months include Joubar near Damascus, al-Hajar al-Aswad, Khan al-Shih, and multiple locales in the enclave of eastern Ghutah east of Damascus.

“Civilians are being isolated, starved, bombed and denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to force them to submit or flee. It is a deliberate tactic of cruelty to compound a people’s suffering for political, military and in some cases economic gain,” O’Brien said, adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad aim was to destroy and defeat a civilian population that cannot defend itself.

O’Brien’s assessment built on growing international concern over the fate of Aleppo in particular, where 250,000 people continue to be trapped in the east of the city under a government siege, as Assad’s military appears to advance. The prospect of Aleppo’s recapture by government forces would be the biggest victory for the regime in the country’s brutal five-year conflict.

A European diplomat told the Agence France Presse news agency (AFP) that the Syrian government’s capture of east Aleppo appeared to be only a matter of time:

“Now, it’s just a question of how long they (rebel forces) can hold on,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is nothing to eat, no more hospitals and the bombardment is non-stop. They are under very strong pressure.”

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